Soon, you won’t need flimsy red-and-blue glasses to enjoy 3D movies. Red Digital Cinema Camera Company is distilling its Hollywood know-how into something pocket sized with its Hydrogen One mobile phone. The Android device will be debuting through Verizon and AT&T this summer, and its major differentiator is its unique holographic display.

In a sneak peek event, I watched a sizzle reel on the Hydrogen One that showed off its 5.7-inch holographic display and 3D audio system. These examples replicated the experience of watching a 3D movie sans glasses, and even when tilting the screen, some of that holographic effect remained. To make this possible, Red partnered with Leia, Inc., which creates lightfield displays for mobile devices.

“Leia makes a clear substrate that goes underneath the LCD display with nanotechnology and what happens is if you aren’t watching 4-view content, it’s clear,” said Red founder Jim Jannard in an interview with VentureBeat. “So, there’s no hit or consequence to the 2D image. The 2D image is the same resolution, 2,560-by-1,440; it looks sharp; it looks bright, color’s great. When the 4-view turns on, it then redirects light into four views — both directions, portrait and landscape — so that the display works in any orientation in 4-view mode.”

Hydrogen One will integrate into Red’s leading-edge camera system, the Red One, and it will also have its own ecosystem of attachments that users can purchase separately. And Leia is also working on recruiting developers through its Leia Loft department to create games that will leverage its lightfield technology.


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Leia’s software engineer Daniel Geisler walked me through a Unity plug-in that the company has developed. It enables people to quickly convert their 3D games into holographic ones. He showed examples, such as a Unity asset pack that the team turned into a dungeon that pops out of the screen as well as a Flappy Bird spoof. The latter was particularly impressive. As you tapped your way across the screen, the character — in this case, a fish and not a bird — casted a shadow and particles of light swirled around it. The obstacles you had to avoid appeared a lot closer than the environment, giving the game a sense of depth.

The plug-in enables developers to adjust the depth of field by attaching a script to a game’s camera. They can manually adjust “how 3D” the game is, but the plug-in will also automatically create a depth of field that Leia has deemed to be the most comfortable for the largest number of players. Developers can also add a slider into the game’s options so that players can adjust the display settings themselves.

Folks can sign up to play around with the plug-in, but it will also be available for anyone who has a Hydrogen One phone. Since it’s still early days, Geisler says that they’re trying to be selective about who they can accept into the developer program, and they’re also providing hands-on consultations to help people make their games holographic.

Hydrogen One’s technology is certainly impressive, though time will tell if the phone will appeal to people who aren’t camera buffs. Jannard says that Red just wanted to make the kind of phone that they’ve wanted to see. And he says that the 4-view content, the modular attachment system, and its design — which he calls “interesting, unique, and different and also functional” — will make the phone stand out on the shelves.

“And again, there’s several ways that we differentiate from everybody else on the market, which I think is the only reason that we have the right to enter,” said Jannard. “If we were going to do the same as everybody else, we would have stayed home. But we haven’t.”

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