RED Digital Camera are famous for their incredible cinematic camera technology beloved by the likes of James Cameron (who has bought heaps of the things) and Peter Jackson.
Given how expensive their video cameras are, they haven’t really made a name for themselves as purveyors of consumer products. A camera from RED can cost anything from $10K to $35K for the base unit, depending on what exactly you need. It’s not amateur-grade stuff this.
Which is why is was a bit of a surprise when the company recently announced two smartphone models that are (gasp) reasonably priced. At least, at between $1195 and $1595 the prices aren’t that crazy in a world with iPhones, iPad Pros and the Galaxy S8.
Preorders for the phone are open, but it seems the price will go up when the phone officially launches.
What makes these phones special, besides the price, is the fact that they have been built around AR and VR technology. As such the Hydrogen is being touted as the world’s first “holographic media machine”.
The main party-trick of the Hydrogen is its ability to transition from displaying 2D content to 3D content without the need for a headset or special glasses. RED’s spin on this is that AR will never really take off if you need to wear a headset or glasses to use it.
RED stated in an article by Forbes that the Hydrogen uses actual holography and not some other 3D technology. It’s unclear at the moment exactly what technical solution they’ve implemented, but it has to be something new in order for them to claim the honour of being first.
After all, it may very well be the first holographic phone, but it would be far from the first autostereoscopic ones. There’s a long list of phones with glasses-free 3D displays. Think of the HTC Evo 3D, the LG Optimus 3D and the Amazon Fire Phone. There are more if you care to look them up and they all use various tricks to achieve a 3D display effect without requiring the user to wear special eye hardware. Heck, the properly autostereoscopic Nintendo 3DS originally released in 2011!
Here We Go Again
These phones are also all notable for the fact that no one really cared about them at the time, but until someone gets their hands on a real Hydrogen unit there’s no way of knowing just how special it’s display technology will be.
RED expects the pre-order production run to sell out quickly, although we know basically nothing about this fancy Android phone. Apparently the price after launch will go up thanks to limited display manufacturing capacity, but time will tell how popular the phone is.