Professional digital imaging firm Red is mostly known for cinema cameras, but now it has turned it attention to a different kind of product. The company has unveiled the Hydrogen One, an Android-powered smartphone that is unlike any other we’ve seen.
The party piece here is the screen. Red calls it a “professional hydrogen holographic display,” and what it does is enable on-the-fly switching between 2D content, stereoscopic 3D content, and holographic Red Hydrogen 4-View content. While we’re not exactly sure what that last one could possibly look like in action, the point is that the Hydrogen One is able to deliver all these kinds of media formats without the need for glasses or any additional accessories. It’s kind of like the Nintendo 3DS in that way, but with a much more advanced screen.
While we haven’t received any more details about the device since its announcement in July, Marques Brownlee was recently able to go hands on with two prototypes: one non-functional mockup showing off the exterior fit and finish, and another working device which Red is still keeping under wraps.
From the looks of the design prototype, the Hydrogen One is a big phone with a very industrial aesthetic. The phone is cloaked in a mix of metal and Kevlar, with a notched, grippy surface on the sides to make it easier to hold. An arrangement of pin connectors break up the bottom Kevlar panel, and they’ll support modular components like the lens mount seen at the end of the video. For the first time, we can see the front of the device, which is rather spartan compared to the back. There are stereo front-facing speakers flanking the holographic display on the top and bottom.
Brownlee had the opportunity to watch holographic content on the functional prototype, and said he was impressed with the results — though Red still has some work to do tuning the tech before launch. Additionally, the final exterior design is subject to slight changes.
Red calls the device “the world’s first holographic media machine,” rather than simply a smartphone. The display itself is 5.7 inches in size, though the company has not stated the resolution of the display, nor the underlying tech — be it LCD, OLED as the upcoming iPhone is rumored to feature, or something perhaps completely different. Red hasn’t answered our request for clarification.
But there’s more that differentiates the Hydrogen One than just the screen alone. Red has fitted its first phone with a proprietary audio algorithm that it says converts ordinary stereo into multidimensional sound. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to require custom accessories hardware either, meaning ordinary headphones will still be able to provide the depth effect.
Finally, Red says the device allows for a certain degree of modularity as well, to support future attachments for shooting higher quality video, still images, and holographic content. Strangely however, the press release doesn’t elaborate as to the on-board imaging tech.
We can see the bezeled camera housing in the lone promotional image we have of the device, but as for other details — megapixels, aperture, sensor size, whether there’s a dual-camera system in play, and so on — there’s no information provided. However, Red does mention a specialized app and content hub called the Red Channel where users can download and upload holographic content, indicating you should be able to record such video out of the box.
There are still many more details about the Hydrogen One that have yet to be confirmed. We don’t know what processor is powering this phone for example, or how much memory it’s packing. We can see a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack, but as for everything else, lots of questions remain. We’ll update this article as we hear more.
We do, however, know the price — and it appears all that next-generation media doesn’t come cheap. The Hydrogen One can currently be pre-ordered in two configurations: an aluminum model for $1,200, and a titanium one for a whopping $1,600.
Red says that pricing is also subject to change, as are the design and specs before the phone launches sometime in the first quarter of 2018. The company is very clear that it can’t guarantee those prices upon the release date; once the pre-order run is all spoken for, the Hydrogen One could end up being even more expensive.
Update: Added video of Hydrogen One prototype.