What does the Hydrogen One look like? Red partnership offers a glimpse

Red Hydrogen One

Despite already listing for a $1,200-plus pre-order, Red has shared very few specifics about the company’s first smartphone, the Hydrogen One, which comes with a holographic media display. But a new business partnership is shedding light on what, exactly, that “holographic media display” entails. On Thursday, Red Digital Cinema announced a partnership with Leia Inc., a 2014 startup focusing on light field displays.

The partnership, which is both exclusive and long-term, will mix Red’s digital content expertise and Leia’s light field display tech, according to a press release. That agreement is part of the Hydrogen One, which the companies say will include both holographic content and 3D sound for viewing movies and media, gaming, mixed reality, and even social media.

Leia uses nano-photonics to create a holographic screen that preserves the usual smartphone touchscreen functions and also does not create extra bulk. According to Leia’s website, its technology uses diffractive light field backlighting, using nanostructures to give a screen “almost magical” properties — or creating small 3D projections from the screen. A demonstration from 2015 illustrates the idea:

Leia says that its ttechnology does not impact battery life. While the focus is the holographic display for media and games, Leia says the screen also has other uses, like creating “privacy viewing zones,” which would presumably make the screen only viewable from a certain angle.

As part of the partnership, Red invested an undisclosed amount in Leia, while Red founder and chairman Jim Jannard will join Leia’s board of directors.

“This is an incredible opportunity for both companies and a perfect marriage,” Jannard said in a statement. “Leia brings a very special piece of technology that blends seamlessly with our vision of a ground-breaking and disruptive consumer product.”

The Hydrogen One is expected to go on sale during the first half of 2018. The smartphone uses an Android operating system and along with that 5.7-inch holographic display features software for converting stereo sound into multi-dimensional audio. Red also said the smartphone is “the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system” with modular components, though it is unclear just how modular the smartphone will be. Full specifications have not yet been released.