RED builds a Virtual Reality Smartphone

The world-famous name in cinema and high-end cameras is getting ready for the Hydrogen One.
11 August, 2017
Shoppers in the market for a new smartphone may want to take a look at the new Hydrogen One from RED, but so do tech professionals and design enthusiasts.
The company that built its reputation on some of the world's highest performing video cameras and sensors is now offering a loaded smartphone.

By loaded, RED means something that consumers have never seen before. The Hydrogen One, available in either aluminium or titanium, integrates hologram and 3D sound to create a new virtual reality. It's the future of personal communication and information gathering, the company says, and relies on the know-how that made RED the go-to camera provider for Hollywood directors including Ridley Scott.
"I never believed that AR and VR would be successful as long as you needed a pair of glasses or a headset to view content. No one wants to drag around another piece of gear that has to be charged every day," said RED founder Jim Jannard in a recent Forbes interview. "Hydrogen opens the door to AR and VR with the one product that you carry with you all the time."

The phone comes with holographic content from RED's own channel of movies and games, but users can upload their own. There's also a proprietary algorithm to deliver multidimensional audio. The stand-alone Android phone is bigger than slimmed-down models are, but it's at the cost of more functionality.
Image: FrAndroid
It's advertised as a "media machine," and also integrates with the RED camera lines, to serve as user interface and monitor of the Scarlet, EPIC and Weapon cameras used in cinema and professional shoots. That may be more than most normal smartphone users need, and it's not cheap. The aluminium model runs about USD$1200 on preorder, and the titanium is even more expensive at $1600. It ships with the machine, a USB-C cable and charger, a micro SD card slot and an undisclosed extra for early orders. Of course, RED believes that what customers pay for is already in a smartphone that does what's never been done.

The 14.5-centimeter screen relies on nanotechnology that equips the easy switch between 2D content, 3D experiences, VR and more. What's really different from competitors, apart from the RED imprimatur, is that users are freed from needing any other hardware to create their experiences. Sony, Google, Samsung and Facebook all have launched VR headsets; Magic Leap continues their work on VR glasses. Earlier this year, Apple announced it would start integrating AR into its platform over the next five years.
Image: 9to5Google
But RED is the only one so far to build a machine that will do that now, and without the necessary add-ons. The idea is so radical that some people have already ordered them while admitting that they don't even know what the Hydrogen One does. The curiosity and the mystery are what led writers at The Verge to dig up a patent application that sheds at least some light on how the smartphone works.

Probably the most intriguing detail is how modular the phone is, with additional components down the road that will build on built-in camera capacity. This patent application imagines a series of rectangles, the same size as the phone, that stack atop the back as a user expands the smartphone's role. With a full line of accessories, will the phone actually become a DSLR camera? So far, only RED knows for sure.
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