ST1080 – how bad does it get?

I’ve been asked to record some video of how the ST1080 really performs. In most cases, it’s not a bad experience, but knowing its limitations I decided to set about reproducing the actual problems. I also gave a try at video editing to see if I could present this in a helpful manner, but in the end that turned into just a bad excuse for further procrastination so I’ve decided to publish raw files showing the performance of the ST1080. The files in there are a jumble and very easily misinterpreted, so here’s a bit of a guide. Beware: A lot of the video clips are high speed footage, so expect extreme amounts of flickering. This can be dangerous to some individuals, such as optically triggered epileptics.

CIMG 2880 through 2892 show the stain in the left lens that troubled me earlier. It is now gone, and might have been as simple as some condensation on the rear lens.

CIMG 2893 shows a peek through the front of the ST1080; it’s very reflective at the partially translucent mirror, and the covering it’s shipped with is not very good for reapplying after stripping off (it stretches). The extras included appear to be a different type, however.

CIMG 2894 through 2897 are high speed video clips of static images, showing the sequential color field display technique used by the ST1080. Setting a lower brightness simply reduces the length of each strobe, likely making the so-called rainbow effect worse, not better.

CIMG 2898 through 2904 are high speed footage of a moving test pattern (a simple vertical colored bar, moving side to side and changing colors, synchronised to vblank). They did not really show anything particular, though one effect of the sequential fields is that objects suddenly switching color may stagger since they’re not shown in an even frame rate.

CIMG 2905 is a 1000fps video showing the HMZ-T1 (on the left) and ST1080 (on the right). Both are fed the same video signal through an HDMI splitter, and that signal is live from a video camera into which we blink an LED light. It thus shows very sharp transitions between a fully lit and dark picture. Here I expected the HMZ-T1 to show pictures before the ST1080, because unlike the ST1080 it not only shows all colors at once but scans similarly to a traditional CRT (notable by a dark band sweeping across the display). What I found surprised me – you can count about 80ms delay in the HMZ-T1, remarkable as we know the ST1080 is already delayed about 17ms.

CIMG 2906 and 2907 are pictures I’ve posted before, approximating the difference in field of view for those two devices. The color error in the ST1080 is simply because the exposure is not well aligned with the color sequence.

CIMG 2908 is a high speed recording of live motion (a swinging foot) displayed by the ST1080. While it’s not clearly visible, the ST1080 accepts interlaced material and displays full frames with half the lines updated – a method that can cause a comb effect. I believe the camera in this instance is sending progressive frames as an interlaced signal. Nothing to really remark on.

CIMG 2920 and 2921 is some high resolution video showing fumbling around and a bit of Big Buck Bunny. Nothing to see here. Colors go nuts as usual. The bright spots aren’t live pixels but dust in the display module, an issue I understand SMD have done work to avoid in later units.

CIMG 2922 through 2926 show the beginning of Elephants Dream. This is of note because it has just the sort of scene the ST1080 does badly at; high motion, dark, yet high contrast. The dark scene makes the side light bleeding much more noticable, and the moving high contrast detail triggers the “rainbow effect” quite handily. The frame rate of the source material and display differ, however, so don’t blame uneven motion on the ST1080.

CIMG 2927 and 2928 show a cheap camera shutter bouncing. Nothing to do with the ST1080, but at this point I’ll just leave it there and see if anyone remarks on it.

CIMG 2929 through 2932 are stills of the display; 2930 in particular manages to show that the color reproduction isn’t all bad.

CIMG 2933 through 2935, 2941 and 2942 again show Elephants Dream (the file being played is also in the folder as ED_HD.avi). In particular 2935 has about 9 minutes of it, thus showing a lot of different scenes.

CIMG 2936 through 2940 are test stills attempting to show the display resolution. This is xclock with antialiasing turned off, so we should get some pixelated diagonal lines to examine. The lower resolution shots are the rescaled 720p mode, in which I have not yet noticed any problems. That is more than I can say of any of the 3D capable games I tested it with, because they all render at even lower resolutions and have horrible scaling artefacts on top of sad frame rates.

CIMG 2943 shows something remarkable. It’s a fairly static display, but is supposed to be 24fps output from an nvidia board. Now, I don’t have another 24fps display to compare with, but to my eyes this looked horrible, and the 240fps footage shows precisely what’s going on. We seem to be getting nearly precisely 240 fields per second – which raises the question, with three colors to show, what is the tenth field? – and therein lies the problem. The tenth field is black, but the LED is still strobing through a sequence of colors. For some reason, this lights up the border around the picture brightly, causing a 24fps strobe in different colors. Now, even at the cinema they know 24fps is never enough – that’s why they triple it, just like here. But with the color sequence I’m seeing frames going gBRGBRGBRG rGBRGBRGBR bRGBRGBRGB. So aside from tripled frames with a different field order each frame, we get strobes of light not involved in the picture. The proper fix is to simply not strobe the LEDs for the blank time slot, but this may be impossible to fix in the updatable firmware if it’s in the display module rather than the control box. As is, I must sadly report that 24fps is unusable on the ST1080 (but they could possibly fix it in another firmware update).

Finally, the MOV files are some useless video footage of the way I shot CIMG 2929 through 2942. And yes, the camera this is shot with can do 1080p24, but it cannot photograph the pictures within HMDs well because the lenses are too large.

I basically agree with a statement I saw on the MTBS3D forum: The ST1080 is the best consumer HMD yet, and not yet very good. I believe this market is in its infancy and the two devices mentioned here are just at the threshold; the ST1080 is good enough for me to purchase, but not to use most days as I had envisioned.

Silicon Micro Display ST1080 – Early Impressions

For once, one of the products I have preordered has actually been delivered. This time it’s the Silicon Micro Display ST1080, a head mounted display in goggle form featuring independent 1920×1080 color displays, as well as partially translucent mirrors permitting you to view the outside world through them. This post will detail some early impressions.

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More unsorted Android addons

I’m sure everybody’s collection grows as time goes by, but I thought I’d note down a few more tools I’ve come across – mostly because for some, there are so many options it’s actual work to try them out, and it’s a pain to have to customize one just to find another did the job better.

A fundamental annoyance with phones is how they track a lot of information about their environs only to not use it to assist me. For instance, they are constantly connecting to cell stations, which gives them their approximate location, but mapping it to a location takes an extra database lookup. And while most wifi networks we use stay put, we normally can’t associate them with locations. Enter tools like Llama. It lets me define things like times to keep the phone quiet, to turn wifi off when I’m out of range to save battery, or even turn alarms off based on calendar events. There are other similar tools, like Tasker and Profiles, but Llama was free and works nicely. If I were to request an improvement, it would be an idea I’ve had for a long time – associate the areas with travel time between them, and use that to adjust reminders.

Also on a related note, telephony is fundamentally timing sensitive, yet for some reason the current time and date are not set on phones – even when they have multiple sources. My carrier doesn’t seem to send calendar time on GSM, but what gives with not having the option to set the time from GPS? Anyhow, ClockSync let me set time from NTP, although doing it automatically requires root.

A less security oriented machine I was supposed to log in to remotely uses VNC. The simple pick for a viewer was android-vnc-viewer, which I would have found a lot faster had I not first searched for “remote desktop”.

When I looked up PwdHash again, a tool for having unique passwords for every website without needing to either memorize or store them all, I found that there are multiple implementations for Android. The one I settled on is Password Hash, because it has published source, properly avoids any Android privileges (so you know it’s not sending your passwords elsewhere), and the resulting hash can be read off the screen. That last thing is not so good if someone else can see, of course, but it means you can use it together with other machines you don’t trust with your master password(s). Within the Android browser, the page sharing feature is used to call up the hasher with the site filled in, and you can paste the hash.

I went looking for a different launcher mostly because I find it annoying that the layout has the same grid size no matter how the screen is oriented in ADW Launcher. I did not find one that fixed that. I did however find a tool to reduce the pointless wait in task swapping. Normally, you have to long-press home, and the most recent apps list fades in slowly. With SwipePad, you can swipe from the edge of the screen to launch pretty much anything – although making it aware of what programs are running takes a modestly priced add-on. If you find yourself demanding multiple of those addons, perhaps Power Strip or Wave Launcher is a better option.

I’ve also added a few network tools, like AndFTP (which does file transfers with a bunch of protocols) and Fing (which is a more general network toolbox starting with a scanner like nmap), but I haven’t actually had much use or need for them yet. They were suggested by AppBrain, a service for cataloguing Android software slightly better than the Market – albeit only slightly. For instance, I can filter on free apps, but not ad-free ones.

AlphaGrip keyboard

After some repeated wrist pain, I figured I had to attempt a change of habits. The most likely culprit seemed to me my constant yet ergonomically unconsidered keyboard use. The first thing to change is sideways typing at irregular heights, such as in bed. Anyone who knows me will realize two things; I won’t manage to just stop, and this is another opportunity for my gadget mania to strike.

So I set about googling for ergonomic keyboards. I found a few options, not all of which are traditional.

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Some more Android bits

A few apps were omitted from my previous post about Android, mostly because I considered them not that helpful for the audience at large. However, I don’t really have a large audience, nor a clue what they’d like to see – so that’s a pretty poor reason. And of course a few were added since, to cover unanticipated whims. So, here are a few more.

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Useful Android addons

It had to happen. Given my gadget mania, physical wear, and Nokia’s new direction (straight down the drain), the replacement for my E71 has at last been selected, and it’s an Android phone.

I still required a physical keyboard, GPS, extensibility and tethering. On the wishlist were high resolution screen, good battery, openness and good platform support (like the scripting support for the E71 did not get). So I ended up with a HTC Desire Z, seemingly also known as Vision or G2.

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PocketBook firmware update – 20110312

Today, I took the plunge to update the firmware in my ebook reader. I wish the version number made sense, but they already reused the 2.0.4 number, and supposedly the new firmware update function offers a 2.0.6 that’s really 2.0.5, so there you have it – this release is D903.2.0.5 20110312_174324. And for some reason, the update archive is named sw_20110312_903_LIBRI_2.0.5_libri_user. After reformatting the internal storage memory I found out where Libri came from – this firmware has a link to instead of for a main screen widget.

Anyway, on to the impressions. Continue reading