The new Hydrogen One has a holographic screen that produces 3-D visuals without needing special glasses. Picture: Richard Drew
The new Hydrogen One has a holographic screen that produces 3-D visuals without needing special glasses. Picture: Richard Drew

World’s first holographic phone

FOR smartphone makers, it's getting harder and harder to stand out from the crowd - but an unlikely entrant into the market is hoping to shake things up with a truly novel idea.

Top devices these days all have great camera, vibrant OLED displays and powerful chips enabling snappy capabilities but only one can boast a holographic screen.

The innovative new phone, due out this week, is by a company called Red which has its roots in digital cameras for movie productions.

The new Hydrogen One device has a holographic screen that produces 3D visuals without needing special glasses. It is launching with two major movies converted to this format and allows users to create and share their own 3D videos shot with the phone.

"This is the single most exciting thing I have ever worked on," said Red chief executive Jim Jannard, who also founded sunglasses giant Oakley.

Red calls the screen technology 4V, for four view, which is another way of saying it's doubling what twin-lens 3-D cameras produce by adding depth data to each image.

There's a special material under the screen that lets 4V photos and video appear to the viewer in 3D. Images that aren't shot or converted to this format will look the same as they do on any other screen.

The new Hydrogen One has a holographic screen that produces 3-D visuals without needing special glasses. Picture: Richard Drew
The new Hydrogen One has a holographic screen that produces 3-D visuals without needing special glasses. Picture: Richard Drew

The Hydrogen One also has twin lenses in the back to capture 4V photos and video. Trouble is, people you share them with will get a normal image unless they also have a Hydrogen One.

On paper it looks pretty amazing but from the sounds of it, it might be ahead of its time.

A few tech publications in the US have got their hands on the device and the reaction hasn't been overly positive.

The Verge called the phone a "mess" and said "it does not live up to the hype".

Gizmodo said the "Hydrogen One is a phone made for an alternate reality" while Tech Crunch joked that it "functions best as a conversation piece".

Meanwhile, CNET said it was "an exciting, eccentric phone aimed at creatives" but was underwhelmed by the regular video quality and rough software.

 

 

The 5.7-inch Android phone comes in two design options: the regular aluminium version, and a pricier titanium version. However, Red CEO Jim Jannard recently posted an update telling customers that the first run of titanium phones was "a disaster" and to expect delays.

Red's goals are modest - about 16 million units a year, based on the company's stated target of capturing 0.5 per cent of Samsung's sales. But Red will need customers beyond the tech elite and camera buffs to make the phone a success.

And it doesn't help that the Hydrogen One carries a seriously hefty $US1295 ($AU1834) price tag.

"The Red Hydrogen One stands little chance of upsetting the smartphone status quo," research analyst in the US, Geoff Blaber, told the Associated Press.

Chipping away at Apple's and Samsung's dominance is much harder than it used to be because phone innovation isn't so much about hardware any more, Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said.

What matters more, she said, is the software and artificial intelligence behind it.

But in an increasingly homogenous smartphone market, it's good to see companies keen to leverage their skills and strengths to bring new innovations to the mobile market.

Mr Jannard said his phone was about making waves in a sea of smartphone sameness.

"We don't buy the same make, model or colour of car that our next-door neighbour has," he said. "It's important to keep this industry pushing along … and give people some new choice. What we've done is pretty nuts."

- With AP


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