Is this crazy modular smartphone camera the Hydrogen One patent?

Red Hydrogen One
Cinema camera brand Red’s upcoming holographic display smartphone, the Hydrogen One, leaves much up to the imagination with few details announced outside of the price and display of the new device expected to be released in 2018. But a recent patent application suggests the company’s first smartphone could get even crazier than that holographic display. While it is unclear just how much of the tech will be included — or even if the tech will be for the company’s first smartphone — the possible Hydrogen One patent introduces some pretty peculiar possibilities.

Red mentioned some sort of modularity as part of the official announcement but the patent, which is currently pending in the U.S., expands on the idea of a modular system to the point of turning a smartphone into a DSLR-like camera or even a shoulder-mounted cinema camera like Red’s normal slew of products, The Verge suggests.

While modular smartphones are not a new idea (just look at the Moto Z), the patent stacks modulars that are all a similar size and shape onto the back of the smartphone — like thin Legos or perhaps rectangular pancakes. Need more battery life? Just snap a battery mod on the back. Better audio? Snap on the speaker module. The patent even suggests a projector add-on.

The patent also details a camera module that unlike the popular iPhone add-on lenses, adds both a larger sensor and the ability to swap lenses. Or at least does so theoretically, anyways, since Red has not announced the actual camera specs for the Hydrogen One. Add viewfinders, grips, and lenses to the stack of mods and the smartphone starts looking more like the bulk of a DSLR and even a wildly modified cinema camera built with a smartphone as a starting point.

Patent drawings don’t always become real products and it is unclear if the patent is for the Hydrogen One or another future smartphone. While the patent does not offer a set-in-stone list of details for the upcoming Hydrogen One, it does show what the company is dreaming up and possibly experimenting with. Based on the drawings, it is unclear what the benefit of a cinema camera built from a smartphone would be, since it seems with so many pieces it might take a few minutes to actually disassemble all the mods back to a phone you can actually make a call on without looking very awkward — not to mention whether or not the system would even be smaller or more affordable than an actual camera with so many pieces.

For now, Red fans will have to wait for more concrete details about the upcoming smartphone, since not every patent comes to life. But the impatient can speculate on just what Red might have up its sleeve by digging through the possible Hydrogen One patent application — though that may still leave more questions than answers.


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