What is 4K?

In this short and informative blog I run through the basics and how you apply resolution to spherical displays......

Happy New Year although it all seems like a distant memory now! All the more reason after a severally depleted bank balance due to presents and parties to take a look at one of the latest buzz words in media > 4K. Just about every TV manufacturer is quoting "4K" in its latest top models. In this short and informative blog I run through the basics and how you apply resolution to spherical displays...

What is 4K?

4K refers to ultra-high resolution (UHD) displays on the order of 4,000 horizontal pixels. A 4K panel is around 4 times the resolution of 1080p Blu-ray content. Especially for games 4K results in sharper crisper images with more detail. According to industry analyst IHS, 4K display prices are expected to come down dramatically and most major panel vendors will increase production of 4K displays within the next year.

(image from Nvidia)


The 4K display standard contains two resolutions:

  • 3840*2160: This is the standard resolution supported by TVs and monitors
  • 4096*2160: Projectors will support this slightly wider aspect ratio format

How does resolution apply to the spherical surface of the Cobra Curved Display?

The Cobra Curved Display measures its actual seen resolution in a different way to a standard flat panel TV or projector. This is because when you project a flat 2 dimensional image onto a 3D dimensional spherical surface they do not match. The phenomenon that you see is both stretched and compressed pixels. Our spherical first surface mirror technology is used to redirect as many of those pixels onto the spherical surface as possible reducing the stretching and compressing of pixels. Once this is done you can then calculate the number of pixels visible. As it is a spherical surface the reference measurement changes to what is called Arc minutes.


What are arc minutes?

Arc minutes is a measurement of a spherical surface. In fact planet Earth is split into degrees, minutes and seconds with Longitude (East - West) and latitude (North - South). Grid reference points for satelite navigation is a combination of 2 sets of these numbers which can pin point your position anywhere on the planet with accuracy. Here are some example co-ordinates N55° 52' 21.381" W3° 32' 55.975" try putting them into a map application like google maps. This is our office location.

A degree is 1/360 of a circle. A minute is 1/60 of a degree which subsequently is 1/21,600 of a circle.
So we measure the pixel density of the screen in Arc minutes per optical line pair or 2pix arcmin. Using the latest 4K native technology the Cobra Curved display increases the number of pixels per arc minute on screen vs a typical Full HD (1080p) resolution. Below is a table showing the estimated arc minute pixel density for the Cobra Curved Display. So for a resolution of 4096 x 2160 there are 2 pixels for every 5 arc minutes (5/60 of a degree and 1,800/21,600 of a circle.)


Projector Resolution   2pix(arcmin)
1920 1200   10.67
2560 1600   8.00
3840 2160   5.33
4096 2160   5.00

It is argued in the industry that once you reach 2 arc mins per optical line pair or below the human eye cannot detect the pixels. This is achievable but not with a single projector on a Cobra Curved Display. When in a few years 8K native panels become available we will pretty much cross that threshold and the benefits of simply increasing the resolution fade away.

4K LCos/ SXRD/ LCD technology already makes it extremely difficult to see individual pixels even at close proximity so you can be sure that your image quality is crisp and sharp with a native 4K resolution.

Categories: January 2015


Curved TV screens: what’s all the hype about?

Alexander Bradley of Cobra Simulation gives his view

Is today’s flat tomorrow’s curved?

There’s a whole lot of hype on the go at the moment surrounding the fact that if you want to be ‘on trend’ you need to be buying a curved screen TV rather than a flat one.  If you haven’t picked up on this hype yet, you’re soon going to, because over the next 12 months, curved is sure to be hyped as the new flat.

The display industry has made some bold moves in the past 10 years, during which time we’ve seen fads come and go and some have even re-appeared. Today is truly a great time to be involved in the technology’s development as we push the boundaries again to incorporate 4K (ULTRA HD) panels, flexible screens and if it can hang in there long enough, stereo 3D. This combination of technology is here today and it’s the culmination of these 3 technologies in a single display that will re-inject the venom into immersive content and how we can experience the world around us.  In a nutshell, what’s going on right now is stuff that I could only have imagined when I was a boy.

What exactly is a curved TV screen?

If you buy a curved screen TV what exactly will you get? Well, without wanting to burst your bubble too much, you’ll get a TV with very slightly bent screen.  Will it make a huge difference to your viewing experience?  Will it fully immerse you?  Probably not.  Why?  The reason that a curved TV screen won’t make a huge difference to your viewing experience is because, on the curved screens that are available now, the radius of the bend is so small that its practical application is pretty limited.  As well as this, the curve on the screen would make it harder to see, so the likelihood is that this isn’t something you’d welcome in your living room. 

So why the focus on mass-producing curved screens?

The apparent slow downfall of stereo 3D TVs has caused all the major manufacturers to focus on mass-producing curved screens.  Why? Put simply, their thinking is: if we can’t give the audience glasses-free 3D cost efficiently, the next best thing to immerse them is to fill their peripheral vision.  Thanks to advances in OLED technology, flexible and immersive displays are about to become all the rage. You will see them in just about everything over the next few years because filling your peripheral vision is the key to truly immersing yourself in content.  You only have to ask Mark Zuckerberg why he just bought OCULUS for 2 Billion dollars to understand that immersion is the future. Or is it?

What would it take for a curved TV screen to be really worthwhile?

To explain this, I’m gonna get a bit scientific.  To achieve a truly different viewing experience, a curved TV screen would need to be spherical rather than just curved.  Getting the image right is all to do with the screen composition and thermo forming the material with the pixels integrated to the screen.  In order to explain, if you heat the material to form it or stretch and bend it, you heat, stretch and bend the pixels, which means they are no longer sufficiently uniform to be able to create a meaningful image. Until this issue is resolved, curved TV will remain cylindrically curved on one axis only.   



To try this out at home, take a piece of paper and bend it.  It bends easily in one direction.  Now try to bend it in 2 directions at the same time.  It’s simply isn’t possible without changing its composition, once you’ve done that, it aint a piece of paper anymore!

Why flat TVs are around for a long time yet

No matter how tempted you are to jump on the curved screen bandwagon, it’s worth being aware of the fact that the flat screen revolution is going to be around for a long while yet.  Why?  At a very basic level, around 12% of the population simply can’t see stereo 3D and a large number of people experience motion sickness in an immersive environment.  So, just when you thought it was time to smash up your cobwebbed HD flat screen for something a bit curvier, STOP.

Motion sickness plagues many people and is the one thing that will have you getting your duster out or leaving your flat screen just were it is. There are 3 types of motion sickness.  First, there’s motion sickness that’s caused by motion and is felt but not seen.  Second, there’s motion sickness that’s caused by motion that is seen but not felt.  And third, there’s motion sickness that’s caused when both systems detect motion but they don’t correspond. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, this covers pretty much everything that’s going on in the industry, so before you rush out to buy a new curved screen just make sure you are not one of these unlucky motion sickness many.

Are you a 3 or 2 dimensional viewer?

For the lucky ones who don’t experience motion sickness, of which there are still many, and who see the world in 3 dimensions not 2, you still need to beware.  Why?  Because we have been socially programmed to watch everything in 2D: flat, mono, boring, assimilated 2D.  But the good news is that everything we know about TV is about to change. In fact it already has.  Our own company has pioneered the use of spherical displays and has been doing what the TV manufacturers are now trying to do for some time.  However, we don’t just bend the screen around you horizontally; we also bend it around you vertically. What does this do? It increases your field of view and fills more of your peripheral vision and so creates greater immersion. The same principles behind the many anticipated HMD’s (Head mounted displays) from the likes of Oculus, Sony, Avegant.

What lies ahead?

Entering the immersive display and simulation market as a new-comer has been both an interesting experience and a challenge.  It hasn’t been an easy ride but I have learned loads and still have my sponge ready to soak up much, much more. I believe that there’s still only one true way to fully immerse yourself in content and that is using technology like our Cobra Curved Display.

As I see it, IMAX 360 is about as close as you’ll get to being fully immersed.  So can you have an IMAX experience in your home?  Almost.  A Cobra Curved Display or a large custom theatre install will give you close to this experience, but it’s not going happen on a lean budget.  We’re still in the early days but everyone is now waking up to the benefits of immersive screen technology. I have seen many carnations of curved screens, including our own product but there is still much more to come and, needless to say, we intend to lead the charge with our upcoming developments (so watch this space).

Cobra Curved Display vs Curved Screen TV?

What’s the difference between a Cobra Curved Display and a Curved Screen TV?  In a nutshell, one is cylindrical and one is spherical.  Here you can see a very simple set of illustrations to scale of what a cylindrical 55-inch TV screen looks like versus a Cobra Curved Display spherical screen.


Above: A direct comparison to scale of a current 55" Cylindrical TV along side the Cobra Curved Display.


Above: Top down view showing the true bend in a curved tv display vs the Cobra Curved Display


Above: Side view

Its clear to see from these illustrations that there is a very long way to go when it comes to curved TV technology and I am naturally excited to see it develop. Immersive environments are the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Curved screen technology please contact us with your question by clicking this link.

Categories: May 2014


How to get your tech innovation on the Gadget Show

Alexander Bradley’s personal insight into the Gadget Show

With the Gadget Show airing on a weekly basis on the box as well opening its doors in Birmingham in April, there are few tech innovators unaware of what a great spot this is to show the world their wares.  Dubbing itself as the tech gourmet’s gateway to getting their hands on the newest gear on the market, for many innovators and consumers alike, this really is the hottest tech ticket around.

In this article, Andrew McGee of Alba Innovation Centre speaks to Alexander Bradley of Cobra Simulation who shares his personal experience of being filmed and the film not being used then turning down a couple of offers to appear on the Gadget Show  and finally what happened when he did get his innovation on the box.  Alex’s experience provides great insight for any tech innovator keen to get on this prestigious show, so if you’re hoping to get your hands on the golden Gadget Show ticket, read on.

GS howto1

Getting your name in the Gadget Show hat

When asked how a tech innovator should go about getting their product featured on the Gadget Show, Alex’s response is as simple and as straight talking as Alex himself.  “Pick up the phone and call the show’s researchers.”  He then goes on to explain “my Mum always said, you get nothing in this world if you don’t ask, so that’s what I did.”

When it comes to things that might swing your request, Alex highlights “Britishness” and youthful companies as being particularly appealing to the Gadget Show gang.  What he does say though is; “don’t be disappointed if they don’t jump on your tech bandwagon straight away.  They might love your product, but simply mightn’t have the right slot for it right now.  If this happens, it’s a case of making sure you’ve sold them the notion of your product in its best light, then sitting tight until they make their decision to feature you.”

He goes on to say, “naturally you’ll be tempted to chase them.  And if you do, bear in mind that these are busy folk and their time is precious.  Don’t be surprised if they don’t take your call straight away.  They typically work 12-hour days and shoot on location on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so don’t even bother chasing them on these days.  The other thing I’d say is that while your tech ‘baby’ might mean the world to you, don’t be disappointed if they don’t share your enthusiasm…they’re seeing equally ‘hot’ stuff day-in and day-out, so they can be a bit nonchalant about it.  Just to show how cool they are; we manhandled our tech innovation in two huge 2m high boxes straight through the middle of their office and they didn’t even bat an eyelid!”

Make sure you’re ready

When the call does come to feature on the show, Alex explains, “it’s important to ask yourself if you and your product are truly ready for this sort of exposure?  While a feature on the Gadget Show could skyrocket your innovation, it could equally cause it to plummet without further trace if it’s not right yet or if you’re not ready.  If this is the case, don’t be afraid to wait.  These folk are human and they’ll do all they can to accommodate reasonable requests.  In a past life, we had one video shoot that didn’t make the show, we turned down 2 further offers because we weren’t ready and then 4th time round everything worked like clockwork for both parties.”

Reinforcing the journalistic side of the Gadget Show, Alex explains, “Another thing that’s well worth saying is don’t forget that while it’s their goal to get your product out there in its best light, they are obliged to show it, warts and all, in a completely objective way.  It’s essential that you’re not offended by this, or hacked off if you’re unlucky and don’t make the final cut.  Lots of innovators are filmed and end up on the cutting room floor because there simply isn’t enough time in the show.  Because of this, you need to be aware that you might make all the time and financial investment needed to make the most of this opportunity just to be cut out of the show at the last minute.  Don’t forget this, because it’s something you can’t control: at the end of the day, the Gadget Show simply doesn’t come with any guarantees.”

Prep, prep, prep and more prep

When it comes to being ready for your experience, Alex can’t stress enough how important it is to “be prepared and plan ahead, as well as covering yourself for break downs and technical issues.  And make sure you have backups in place where possible.”  He goes on to explain, “once your film slot is allocated, you’re in and out of the studio in the blink of an eye. It’s unlikely you’ll get any second chances on the day.  I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be prepared.  At the end of the day, it is not the Gadget Show team’s responsibility to make sure you’re organised; they’ll deliver on the filming and they’ll (quite rightly) expect you to deliver on the product.”

Adding to this, Alex shares a really valuable nugget of information about getting what you want by saying: “don’t forget that if you want anything in particular it must be agreed and in place before the final edit.  This is important because once the show has its final edit it won’t be changed under any circumstances.”

When it comes to written documentation, Alex recommends that you “make sure you have a central document that is short, simple and to the point about what branding they can use to back your product.”  He adds, “it’s also a good idea to produce a list of key benefits and facts for them.”  Alex explains, “This will help the presenters immensely because they review so many products and short bullet points will help them no end to present your product as best they can.  What’s more, this document will be really helpful for the researchers during the final edit phase.”

The logistics

When it comes to getting your kit in and out of the Gadget Show, Alex explains, “generally speaking there are people to help lift items in and out, but it’s really important to be clear ahead of time what resources you will need and if at all possible take people to help you, rather than counting on the Gadget Show team.”

Make the most of the experience

When I asked Alex how he’d sum up his experience, he said; “admittedly whilst I may not have shown it too much in the studio (I hope) I could not help but be a little star struck.  We met and worked with Jason and Rachael and although they are sometimes as nervous as you are, it’s not obvious, so just be yourself, relax and don’t be shy.  Once everyone got comfortable with each other we had a ball.  When the cameras were off, it was a great laugh.”

Going on, Alex shares, “after your shoot it’s not unusual for the team to film upstairs or around you.  At this point, you may be asked to leave the studio or just sit quietly while they work. This is normal and if you are lucky enough you will get to see how they film the sofa parts of the show.”

And asked for his final word, Alex added, “the main thing to remember is to enjoy the experience.  Of course it’s a bit stressful; but butterflies in the stomach keep you on your toes and planning ahead will help. The most important thing is to have fun and don’t forget to thank everyone in the team, including the people tucked away in the office.  We discovered that they love to get chocolates; that’s always a winner. You might need are few boxes to go round, so make sure your budget will stretch☺.  That said, at the end of the day, if you’re a cash strapped entrepreneur, I suspect a good old fashion ‘Thank You’ will work just as well.”

You can check out Alex’s tech innovation here

Andrew McGee is a Commercialisation Adviser at Alba Innovation Centre in Scotland where early stage tech start-up's are provided with one 2 one support across investment strategy, sales and marketing plus, financial modelling to help tech firms get to market more rapidly.

Categories: March 2014


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