RED finally reveals what its 'holographic' phone screen actually is

A couple of months ago, cinema camera maker RED made the surprise announcement that it was working on a smartphone, and the even more surprising announcement that said phone would have a “holographic” display. What RED did not announce, however, is what that technology actually involves, even as the $1,195 Hydrogen One phone went up for pre-order essentially sight unseen.

Well, now we have an answer: RED’s screen technology comes from an exclusive partnership with a startup called Leia Inc. (Yes, like the princess.) Leia describes itself as “the leading provider of lightfield holographic display solutions for mobile,” and was founded in 2014 as a spin-off from HP’s research labs. RED has made an undisclosed strategic investment in Leia as part of the partnership.

So, how does the tech work? It’s impossible to show it off on a regular screen, of course, so here’s Leia’s description:

Leia leverages recent breakthroughs in Nano-Photonic design and manufacturing to provide a complete lightfield “holographic” display solution for mobile devices, through proprietary hardware and software. The Silicon Valley firm commercializes LCD-based mobile screens able to synthesize lightfield holographic content while preserving the normal operation of the display.

And here’s a concept video from a couple of years ago:

The idea is that the screen projects 3D objects that you can view from different angles based on your physical position. For example, a mapping application could theoretically look like a little model of a city with buildings poking out of the screen. You’d then be able to interact with the objects “above” the display through hover gestures enabled by Leia’s partnership with Synaptics.

The technology works through diffraction, producing a lightfield illumination with a layer of nanostructures added to a conventional LCD. Leia claims this “diffractive lightfield backlighting” layer doesn’t significantly compromise the display’s quality, battery consumption, or thickness for non-holographic use.

How well does this work in practice? Very few people know for sure. One is YouTuber and noted RED shooter Marques Brownlee, who checked out a few Hydrogen One prototypes last month. Brownlee, better known as MKBHD, said he was “pretty impressed” by the display, but that it “definitely wasn’t perfect” with some stuttering and light bleed issues. You can get an idea of what he's talking about in the video below of a Leia display prototype demonstrated in May (without the benefit of seeing it in 3D, of course):

RED president Jarred Land says Brad Pitt and David Fincher are also impressed, for whatever that’s worth.

Even if the tech works great, though — and that’s a big if — RED and Leia will need to have a credible array of content lined up for the Hydrogen One if the screen is to be anything more than a gimmick. “The Hydrogen program will feature stunning holographic content and 3D sound for movie viewing, interactive gaming, social messaging and mixed reality,” according to RED’s statement today, but it’s not clear where any of that is going to come from.

Still, the Hydrogen One continues to be one of the more intriguing devices on the horizon, and RED can’t be faulted on ambition. We’ll see how its holographic vision shakes out when the phone launches in the first half of 2018, which might represent a delay from RED’s previous language of “early 2018.”


After a few generations of this it could really be fined. Now I’m interested in getting one of theses.
It sounds awesome.

i dont know. I mean it would be cool to have something like this on a smartphone but only if the displays become super cheap like LCD but that could take a very long time. The amazon fire phone (for what its worth) didnt have a holo display but did simulate it with face tracking with its four cameras so it simlutaed a 3d map and you can look around buildings etc. The phone was sadly neglected by amazon and left by the wayside, heck they dont even unlock the bootloader with the standard speil that updates are still coming…two years later…nothing.

Anyhow…hopefully this doesnt stay a gimmick.

I have a feeling optics is going through a Renaissance. Manufacturing these sort of meta materials has always been the hurdle but it looks like folks are slowly over coming these problems. This is great news for things like hololens, magic leap, and others working on the next big thing.

It’s part of the trend in computing called Natural User Interface (NUI).

When computers started, they were very primitive, and people had to adapt to how computers worked (typing commands in to a terminal). Then computers became more sophisticated, and adapted to people a little bit better by having a 2D GUI which you interacted with via a cursor. Better, but still not an entirely "natural" interface for a human being to use.

Then, of course, came multi-touch to make the mouse more human-friendly. Depth-sensing cameras, high-density displays, biometric authentication, speech recognition, smart assistants, augmented and virtual reality, etc – are all just continuations of the effort to make computing even more natural and "human".

We’re really lucky to live at a time when so much work is being done in parallel on all of these fronts. Mobile devices really spurred a lot of that effort. Beige-box PCs like most of us were using during the 90s and 00s are so un-natural that most of these technologies would be impractical. As computers moved to occupy more form-factors, the keyboard and mouse became less practical and we had to find other ways for people and machines to communicate.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could have maintained computers as raw number-crunchers and used their improving computational powert to crunch more and more numbers. Instead, we’re using it to teach them to handle less and less precise forms of input for the same kinds of tasks they already do.

Here here.
Also- RIP Beige boxes, you served us faithfully and should never be forgotten.

The thing is, if you put the effort in to talk to a computer on its terms (text terminal) you can get more done faster, its a much more expressive and direct interface.

If a computer has to talk to a user on their terms (GUI) its severely limiting the throughput of data, it makes the tool overall more accessible, but less powerful.

I mean text input is pretty crap already, you are lucky if you can get 30 bytes a second transferred by flailing your meaty appendages over a keypad. Reducing user input to a set of pointer coordinates is even worse for overall efficiency.

Most of your time on a computer is spent vaguely telling it what you want it to do for you.

And I still like beige!

VM abstracted Devices
Containers abstracted OS’s
Cloud abstracted Networks

Here we are (devices) not nearly as important anymore, experiences are. Things that bring new experiences from here on out will win as long as tied to the cloud..that’s the new game.

I hope enough people buy this to allow them to improve the technology. Could be very special in 5 years time.

the problem is the phone is aimed at a very niche market. The only chnace of getting the price down for mass market devices is if the more common manufacturers like Samsung / Apple / chinese OEMS start to use their tech or very similar tech. Samsung probably wont as they make their own screens and Apple…well they do their own thing. I really hope that this tech gets cheap enough for mass market and is improved to be a viable alternative to the cheaper but very good lcd.

If it’s good, i’m sure there won’t be a shortage of offers to licence it.

It’s not just a matter of it being cheap enough, for Apple or Samsung it also has to be viable to manufacture it in crazy high volumes. A niche company like RED can get away with launching a product that will sell maybe a million units a year. Apple/Samsung need to be able to manufacture that many panels a day.

true enough but samsung and apple need the manufacture of the part to be very cheap so they can maximise profits. Samsung on the other hand will never license this from leia because samsung make their own panels and wont make someone elses thats why when it comes to them you shoudl exclude them as a manufacturer, unless they license the tech and make it but there is no incentive in them doing this or they can make a similar screen if possible.

Manufacturers not only need viable orders and en mass people asking for it but they need the screens to be cheap…heck take the iphone, if you tracked every part and its prices the entire phone would probably come to about £250 (this is a guess on my part) but they charge a ton more money…why? because they know, the cheaper they can make the phone to make the more profit they can garner. Guys like samsung dont even need to have the possibility to make the screens in crazy high volumes, take the samoled+ screens they used to make, they never made them in high vols and they just took the tech and integrated them into the current screens. The samold+ varient had better contrast and brightness, also expensive to make.

Apple cant seem to do basic OLED are you kidding me? Samsung maybe

That is because Samsung’s OLED is a temporary stop gap to MicroLED for Apple.

And then what is Apple going to do with micro led? The Slab form factor will be replaced in a few years, the wearable market is about to explode with useful cloud based wearables that can make calls, people will want Mixed reality and will buy devices made for it not slabs.People only have so much discretionary spending and when it comes down to it NEW STUFF is what usually wins so AR/Mixed reality, Ambient Computing will win not old slabs like iPhone no matter what the shoehorn in the Smartphone form factor is dead already. Only thing left is higher priced slabs what are we going to $1700 for some fact iPhone 11 with micro led?

Come on wake up. First people will spend less on Smartphones then they go away

It’s sort of a closed circle. The "slab" form factor will disappear, but only when a better (more useful) factor comes to play. And it has to be done by a company that has at least credibility. Sales numbers show that people don’t care for gimmicks (modular phones, in-the-air swiping etc.). They want something simple to use and comprehend that does what they need to do. That’s why iPhone sells so good – it does what people need to do. It’s sleek, simple to use and reliable. And only geeks care for the "new stuff". So whether it’s VR, AR and 3D – it has to add some value. As with every new technology – first products seem to be made for the geeks who’ll get hyped just because it’s new. Holographic displays, AR, VR etc. – each one can be a hit, but it has to be more than Pokemon GO and some gimmicks. Otherwise it gets boring and tiresome after a while. So for now, these are only gimmicks without a reasonable or extremely fun and accessible real-life usage.

Not a gimmick for less than $500 to have as many monitors as you want and that will transcend geeks… now that $500 that don’t go to a new iPhone that’s ten years old, the rest goes to buying a newer PC to support the Premium Mixed Reality experience.

What’s changed is there are now going to be Way Cool new experiences that have nothing to do with Apple products. For the past decade iPhone was basically that cool device…not anymore and it will languish then be replaced.

People do not have unlimited budgets they will make decisions what they spend their money on, more monitors persistently set up for cheap is compelling and that’s just the tip of value adds for the average user.

Yes iPhone is done.

That’s how new tech often goes. The first iterations are expensive to recoup R&D costs, then it gets licensed and mass produced at lower cost for the masses. I remember the first plasma TVs that came out were like $20,000.

That’s not a problem – that’s a feature!

This is still a general-purpose smartphone, but with some niche features and a price which isn’t viable for a mainstream device. If those customers say it’s pointless (as Nintendo’s customers pretty roundly did with the 3DS), the big companies know not to invest in it.

On the other hand, if customers respond well, Apple will surely throw their cash around until they have better components than their competitors. Research, suppliers, tooling – whatever they need, they have the cash to make it happen. Their whole brand is built on being the best, and they have an imperative to keep that up.

Nintendo 3DS anyone?

3DS was released four months before the LG Optimus 3D. I think Nintendo deserves to claim this fad as their own. LG has clearly moved on to bigger and better things…like the V30!

My first thought. I’m no expert on Nintendo, but didn’t 3DS have this exact same tech? Or at least tech that looked the same, as in, 3D without glasses?

It’s not the exact same. Nintendo had 3D. This phone has 3D that you can also interact with without touching the screen or using a stylus. There are other differences of course, but I think that’s the simplest explanation.

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