The Sphere in Las Vegas is the largest spherical structure in the world, and building it required a lot more than engineering and architectural know-how – over 100 patents are expected to come out to the construction of this entertainment venue. Love it or hate it, the venue is certainly unique. Its exterior is 112 meters (366 feet) tall and 157 meters (516 feet) wide creating a surface of 54,000 square meters (580,000 square feet) of LED display, the biggest screen in the world.
Building things with curvature is not easy. Just thinking back at ancient civilizations, not all of them had worked out how to make arches. The secret is to support the structure until the curved structure can hold itself: once the dome is topped off, if you have done your work right, it will be stable. But getting to the topping off is easier said than done.
For the sphere, it happened twice. The Dome where the auditorium is required 32 trusses each weighing 100 tons to sustain the structure. Above it, there is an exosphere 30 percent taller than the dome. Imagine then having to pour concrete into the structure and then having to install a humungous amount of LEDs both inside and outside, and you would understand the scale of the project.
“It is other-worldly,” David Dibble, CEO of MSG Ventures responsible for the building’s technology, told Popular Mechanics. “It took more than a fair amount of brilliance to build the place.”
The Sphere’s internal screen has a 16K resolution across its 14,900 square meters (160,000 square feet), the biggest high-resolution screen in the world. Each diode is just a few millimeters away from the next, creating the incredible viewing experience that has been reported by the people who have attended the last two weeks of concerts (the U2 are in residence there until December) and experiences. However, the accurate positioning was not easy.
“That is pretty tough,” Paul Westbury, executive vice president of development and construction at Sphere Entertainment, added in the same interview. “Then it gets tougher. The human eye is incredible and picks out any little variance in geometric position. We had 189 million diodes across two soccer pitches, and none can be out of position by more than the thickness of a blade of grass.”
The external screen also needed different, but equally complex, tech. After all, the LED would be exposed to weather out there. The solution was organizing them in pucks of 48 sealed with a non-reflective black silicone. The exterior surface is covered with 1.23 million of these pucks. Cleverly, they can be easily replaced if they malfunction. They all have a simple push/pop/twist way to be installed and removed.
More Spheres are currently in the works with proposals in London, UK, and intentions to build them elsewhere.
[h/t: Popular Mechanics]