"The World's First Holographic Media Machine in your pocket.
- No Glasses Needed"
RED Cinema Android OS Hydrogen Phone has been announced.
Firstly, we'll look at the facts and then we'll dive into what it might mean and ask if it can work?
The Tech Highlights:
- 5.7″ Professional Hydrogen Holographic Display. No glasses needed.
- Support for holographic RED Hydrogen 4-View content (H4V)
- View Stereo 3D content (no glasses)
- Viewing Modes: AR, MR, VR, Holographic, 2D, 3D in Landscape or Portrait
- Integrated support for controlling RED Cameras Scarlet, Epic and Weapon
- 5.1 converted from Stereo via Headphones
- Expandable Micro SD Slot
- USB-C Cable/Charger
- New content format .h4v
- both internal store and the external micro SD card slot
- And yes a headphone jack
- front and rear cameras (but not what RED calls "cinema quality")
Cost: US$1195 (Aluminum), $1595.00 (Titanium) – Tax, shipping and handling not included.
Shipping is scheduled for the Start of 2018 (Q1).
The Hydrogen One is said to have a new high-speed data bus to enable "a comprehensive and ever-expanding modular component system". This will allow for additional options and attachments for shooting higher quality images and material in the .h4v format.
From a viewing perspective RED will offer a 'Red Channel" which will be a Youtube for .h4v material.
We don't know what Red is actually doing, we don't have an early version of the phone, but here is an early analysis:
Just as a phone:
As a phone, it could be argued that the Hydrogen One is just an Android phone in a cool case. The only significant difference - away from the video/display - is that the sound quality will be dramatically better for playing your music etc. Superior audio would require conversion of your audio files to the virtual 5.1 for improved headphone audio. The vast majority of the points discussed in the announcement today centre around its ability to either control cameras (can't we do that already?) or view content in a new and dramatic way. The display tech is impressive, but we will get to that below, first we consider the implications around launching a new phone. We do not have detailed technical specs for the phone. We are not sure on the battery life, data/SSD disc capacity, Internal processor, Network (4G etc) details or other standard phone metrics.
Phones are a very different beast than cameras from a regulatory point of view. They are controlled transmitting devices and if there is problem with the device the world makes that very visible. Airplane warning announcements about Samsung's ignition-happy Galaxy Note 7 are a case in point. But beyond basic safety, phones can be locked and a US phone will not simply work in the UK or Australia. RED has said the Hydrogen One will be a globally unlocked phone. The issue is one of timing. It is very unusual to release a product 6 months ahead of shipping. It is quite possible RED has not yet had the phone globally certified by all the various regional versions of the FCC, but that it intends to do this over the coming 6 months.
Who buys a phone outright?
Of course, many people, but a great section of the population buy their phones as part of a plan, (The iphone was locked to only one service provider when it was first released for example). This is due to phone subsidies and the desire to avoid the $1200+ sticker shock by having nice monthly payments as part of one's phone bill, spread over 24 months of the contract. In the case of the Hydrogen One, you could argue that RED is not after the mega shipping numbers of an Apple or Samsung phone, hence wide plan appeal is less relevant. But RED will need to ship a large volume of phones to get the manufacturing economies of scale needed for producing such a revolutionary device. If not they face a per unit lack of profitability.
The telco market, that RED is about to enter, is the big league. Apple, Google and Samsung are playing for billions of dollars. Iphone sales made Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world. Their manufacturing technology alone is at the cutting edge of consumer and computer technology, with incredible tolerances, materials and complete supply side management. It is not easy to make a Pixel phone or an iphone, they are complex manufacturing exercises. On the marketing side, these companies have enormous power not just in Ad spend but in the deals that are done and the distribution chains such as the Apple stores. Is RED already partnering with one of these giants? If not, it begs the question, how will the mega corporate giants react if the Hydrogen One is a hit?
Someone like Google could buy RED (if it was for sale) with money they found down the back of the sofa. But let's assume RED is not for sale, then there is the issue of Patents. Of course, as an Android phone, Google should be on RED's side but only in terms of the actual phone OS. If Apple and Samsung can fight each other as hard as they did over patents, what will they do to RED? When each tech giant has a vast library of Patents and an even larger army of Lawyers, RED could be forced into an enormously costly battle should the giants decide to play rough. Let's assume RED has patents on their unique display tech, after all they are bright guys. Are RED covered on every other phone Patents a company like Apple might throw at them?
Rumours are that RED has been working hard for some time on very cool and innovative tech such as Lightfields. Jim Jannard has posted this today "It is multi-view (4-view) as compared to stereo 3D (2-view). Watching shocked faces light up when people see it is really motivating."
Jannard goes on to rule out some other options people have been speculating about, "our display is technology you haven’t seen before. It is not lenticular, which is inferior tech in every way, has been tried many times before and failed for good reason. (see Amazon 3D Fire, LG Optimus, etc). Lenticular display dramatically lowers resolution, cannot be turned off for standard 2D content, only works in one direction (usually landscape), has color crosstalk… to name just a few issues. My bet is that other “big” companies will try to re-package lenticular 3D displays with eye-tracking in response to our program. Don’t fall for it".
All guesses therefore point to some type of Lightfield display.
In the past, on several occasions, RED has been involved in different display technologies, does anyone remember the RED Laser Projector? The single thing that makes the Hydrogen One so impactful is its display. It is the major innovation and at the end of the day the thing most likely to make or break the new phone as a successful product.
The Red One broke through on price as much as it did for being 4K resolution. If one winds back the clock to their initial Red One NAB launch it was 4K for $17,500. When the smoke cleared after the first NAB, and the first RED Tent was closing, hundreds of cameras had been pre-ordered and my March 2007 they had close to 1500 camera orders. Today a camera shooting 4K at $17,500 seems like a lot but back then it was about 1/10th of the accepted logic for such a camera. Hydrogen One has no such price advantage, it is actually an expensive phone, so it will all rest on the quality of the display.
When it comes to displays and camera technology RED does have a bunch of patents. (It may have phone patents too but clearly not to the level of an Apple or Samsung).
Two of the RED patents, recently awarded but filed 18 months to 2 years ago, caught our attention:
We are not suggesting that these two patents are directly related to the new phone (although the second one looks very much like it could be) but it shows that RED or Jim Jannard has been working in the area of mobile devices and Lightfield technology since at least 2014, and likely much earlier.
Dense Field Imaging Nov 15th 2016
"Dense field imagers are disclosed which are configured to provide combined, aggregated, fused, and/or stitched light field data for a scene. A dense field imager can include a plurality of imaging elements configured to be joined into image blocks or facets that each provides light field data about a scene. The dense field imager can include a plurality of facets in a fixed or modular fashion such that the dense field imager is configured to combine, aggregate, fuse and/or stitch light field data from the plurality of facets. The facets can be mounted such that one or more facets are non-coplanar with other facets. The facets can be configured to provide a representation of the light field with overlapping fields of view. Accordingly, the dense field imager can provide dense field data over a field of view covered by the plurality of facets."
Inventors James H. Jannard, Bimal Mathur, Howard John Postley
Filed in 2014-02-14, awarded 2016-11-15
Multi-layer handheld electronic device,
"Disclosed is a housing for a portable handheld electronic device such as a cellphone. The device has a housing, having a left side and right side. The housing can be layered, such as in a sandwich configuration. The layers can be secured together via one or more fasteners that extend through at least front and rear plates of the housing."
This is a "detachable component handheld electronic device".
Inventors Stephen G. Pizzo, Peter Jarred Land James H. Jannard, Hector Ortega
Filed in 2015-08-07, awarded 2016-02-11
While there are great tools for controlling RED cameras from mobile devices, there is no doubt that a purpose built device such as the Hydrogen One could go further than a normal device. If the display is as innovative as RED owners hope then they may also desire a much larger form factor for on set use. One can only imagine that there are plans for different and expanded products after the Hydrogen One is released and this may include a tablet sized display device.
It is also possible that far from just being a camera controller this is the start of a new eco-system that moves into VR, AR and pushes the company to be a major player in the mass consumer capture market.
It is impossible today to launch a new device or tech and not have a channel for it, but people go where the content is, not where the format is. The notion of a .h4v channel is not a winner. RED would need .h4v supported on Youtube or Vimeo not a dedicated separate channel. Does anyone remember RED Ray Player and its own dedicated channel?
Of all the points announced today the notion of a new media channel with exclusive .h4v content is the one least likely to change the industry.
6 months ahead is a long lead time for a phone. Can RED deliver on this timeline. Recently the company has delivered but in the early years product delivery promises got to a point of major annoyance for most users who hated being told years ahead of when a product shipped, if it shipped at all. While the company was open that all specs might change and that nothing was locked in, the vapourware 'hype' broke down trust that had been hard earned in other areas.
RED may want to get ahead of things such as Apple's September iphone announcement. RED may want to beat a spoiler that was about to be posted, or Jannard might have just been too excited to wait... but the next 6 months and the reaction from the major phone players will be interesting.
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