Many were shocked when RED announced it was working on a smartphone. But, they were even more shocked after hearing the price and all promises that announced crashing conventional thinking about smartphones. Nanotechnology, free-glasses 3D content, holographic smartphone. Buzzwords or maybe not?
The World’s First Holographic Smartphone
This announcement happened in July this year. RED, the world’s famous video recording equipment maker, suddenly started to work on a smartphone. But, not just any smartphone. This phone, called Hydrogen One, with starting price of $1195 (aluminium body) and $1595 (titanium body), promises many features well worth its price.
The most significant is “holographic” display. Looking around and behind objects on a smartphone, but without wearing 3D glasses? Is it possible? Is it true? Is first holographic smartphone here, or still in a far, far future?
Judging by a video that famous vlogger Marques Brownlee posted, all of it is true. He was in RED’s centre where they demonstrated how holographic display would work. Although he couldn’t put it on camera, we can guess from his reaction that something big is coming. By his words, there is still some work and improvements to do, but let’s wait the first quarter of 2018 (when first real models will hit stores shelves) and see for ourselves.
How Will Hydrogen One Look Like?
Male or female, the first thing that anyone will notice is how does the phone look like. The Hydrogen One holographic smartphone is quite massive. It is slim, but tall and wide.
It has an industrial heavy duty design. On the back of the phone, there is a mix of a pinstriped metal section with two kevlar panels. There is a large red dot embossed with “RED Digital Cinema”. Along both sides are grips (for more secure handling when the device is loaded up with modular attachments).
Because of larger size, it may not fit for people with smaller hands or for those who prefer to use phone one-handed.
Opinions about design are very different. Some people love it; some people not so much. But, considering that look is actually the least important thing, let’s leave it for everyone to decide for itself.
What do we Know so Far?
RED was pretty stingy in releasing information about their holographic smartphone. But, here is what we know so far:
- 5.7-inch, high-resolution screen.
- Holographic display.
- Runs Android operating system.
- Switch between 2D content, 3D content, holographic multi-view content and interactive games.
- Supports ”Hydrogen 4-View content”.
- Uses H3O algorithm to convert stereo into dimensional audio.
- Integration into existing line of RED’s cameras to act as a controller and external monitor.
- Power button with a fingerprint reader.
- Stereo speakers at the front.
- Dual-camera setup.
- Modular external attachment for image capture.
- Dedicated Record button.
- Headphone jack.
- Charging over USB Type-C.
- microSD card slot for expanded storage.
Meet Princess Leia
RED’s screen technology comes from a partnership with a company called Leia Inc. This company describes itself as the leading provider of light-field holographic display solutions for mobile.
The idea behind this holographic display is that the screen projects 3D objects which are visible from various angles based on your position. For example, if you are looking at mapping application, it could look like a 3D model of a city with the highest buildings poking out of the screen. Then, you could interact with the objects above the display using hover gestures.
Laia’s technology works actually very simple. By using light field technology, it stacks LCDs with backlights pointing in different directions. When combining the angles of the backlight projecting the images on the screen, there are 3D effects visible to the naked eye.
When you rotate a display, objects would appear to project from the screen. This effect is promising a lot for virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Of course, you don’t have to use 3D if you don’t want to. Traditional 2D display capabilities are undisturbed, so you can switch between both modes depending on what you’re viewing.
All this structure shouldn’t significantly compromise thickness for non-holographic use, displays quality or battery consumption, as they say.
Well, the theory is one, but the practice is something entirely different. How will this display and the whole concept of holographic smartphone work in real world? We don’t know yet for sure. As Jim Jannard, RED founder, says: “There is no good way to describe it until you see it. Our display is the technology you haven’t seen before.” And we can’t wait!
Since RED is famous cinema camera maker, people will definitely have big expectations for Hydrogen Ones.
The built-in camera will not deliver cinema-quality images. But, there is a solution in a modular system. The phone will accept multiple add-on modules. One of them allows interchangeable lenses and a much larger image sensor. With this module, RED aims at people that want to make high-quality videos. Also, you can film Raw which is just perfect. If this module adds a battery and prolongs shooting time, it would be great.
In RED they believe that “this can and will be the future of small form-factor cinema (cameras).” Apparently, the mission is that the smartphone’s image quality should be surpassed only by RED’s bigger cameras.
We mentioned that this holographic phone supports ”Hydrogen 4-View content”. It is a file type that RED has produced, stored in the RED Channel allowing people to stream holographic games and movies. That can lead to a problem on the content side. Will there be enough of it?
Content can be provided by shooting four cameras simultaneously from different angles to capture these holographs (a little hard requirement for beginners), or by converting traditionally captured 2D to 3D content (very tricky), and then to .h4v.
If and only IF all of this technology works, RED will have to ensure enough content for support. As they announced, “The Hydrogen program will feature stunning holographic content and 3D sound for movie viewing, interactive gaming, social messaging and mixed reality,”
One more thing that will resolve only after the phone is out on the market.
After studying everything known about RED’s first holographic smartphone, what would you say about it? Is it possible to fulfil all of the promises they have made? Will this smartphone, the most expensive one so far, justify its price?
RED is proven expert in everything they have been manufacturing so far, so that is a big plus. But, will the story be the same with smartphones, especially when competing with giants like Apple or Samsung? As the saying goes, competition breeds innovation. Consequently, to us end-users, that means the possibility to choose something for ourselves.
Technology that RED is promising can be a huge disappointment or huge success. It has potential, for sure. If everything goes by the plan, this might be one of the most exciting developments in smartphone technology for many years.
We have to admit, all sounds great, but there is still not enough information to judge in global. Seems like it remains to wait for 2018 and see the first real model in use.