Is 2018 the year of the holographic smartphone? Cinema camera company RED says so

07 July 2017

We've all heard of red smartphones, but what about a smartphone made by RED? The upstart digital cinema camera manufacturer today announced intentions to release a device it calls the Hydrogen One - a high-end Android device with a "holographic display".

RED's being pretty vague about what this actually means, but says the screen will ostensibly allow you to view holographic content and 3D content without the need for any additional accessories, such as a glasses or a headset. The screen is also said to be capable of displaying virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality content. On top of this, the company is promising proprietary multidimensional audio described as "5.1 on your headphones".

3D without the need for glasses isn't too outlandish a claim, given that Nintendo's achieved similar on its 3DS handheld. By layering two offset images on of one another (and passing them through a parallax barrier), the 3DS creates a 3D effect you can see without glasses. The viewing angles on this are quite limited though.

Amazon and LG have both tried to make 3D smartphones in the past to lukewarm response, but RED founder Jim Jannard says the Hydrogen One uses different technology and is betting on other companies trying to imitate it.

"Our display is technology you haven’t seen before," said Jannard. "It is not lenticular, which is inferior tech in every way, has been tried many times before and failed for good reason."

"My bet is that other 'big' companies will try to re-package lenticular 3D displays with eye-tracking in response to our program. Don’t fall for it."

There's few confirmed specifications for the Hydrogen One so far, but RED says it will ship with a 5.7-inch display at an unspecific resolution, support for modular accessories over a new high-speed connector (possibly similar to Motorola's Z series), USB Type-C charging, a headphone jack, and expandable storage. It will have both front facing and rear facing cameras, which won't "produce cinema quality images" because "no cell phone does".

Jannard says the modular accessories will however add "image quality well beyond any other camera, short of our professional cameras".

If you're willing to take a punt, you're able to pre-order the Hydrogen One from today. Pricing starts at US$1,195 for a model with an aluminum finish, and a USD$1,595 for titanium. At time of writing, these prices convert to $1,577 and $2,105, respectively. RED has been quite vague as to whether both models will have the same specifications. Taxes and shipping aren't included in the price, and the company says they could go up after launch. Notably, Jannard says that early customers are entitled to a full refund if they see something they don't like in the lead up to the phone's release.

While RED has a good track record when it comes to delivering high quality cinema cameras, smartphones are new territory for the company. Given that the company has yet to showcase any working prototypes, we’re taking its claims with a grain of salt for the time being. A holographic phone sounds baller though.

Jannard says he hopes to get "some skeptics eyes" on the phone soon. Pick me, please.

The first batch of Hydrogen One phones is set to ship in the first quarter of 2018.


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