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The Hydrogen One holographic phone from movie studio camera maker Red actually does work as claimed.
Red is better known as a maker of high-end cameras used by Hollywood cinematographers. Its cameras have been used to shoot The Hobbit, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most Netflix original shows.
The company announced its ambitions to take on the smartphone market last year and has selectively shown various influencers its prototypes to drum up interest and dispel doubts that an outsider can achieve what Google, Samsung, and Apple have not.
The headline feature of the Hydrogen One is 4 View (4V), which displays holographic content in 4V format. Red's demo included clips from movies that have been adapted to 4V, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Avatar, and Brave.
CNET's Patrick Holland found the "part-hologram and part-3D" effect when watching movie clips impressive, and a lot better than Amazon's 3D effect in the failed Fire Phone.
The image is different to the hologram that R2-D2 projected of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars, but was immersive without requiring a VR headset.
Another demo showed off the Hydrogen One creating a new experience on video chat, which added depth to a user's face.
Red is also planning to launch the Hydrogen network, an online service for sharing and viewing games, movies, shows, music, and original content that support the Hydrogen One's 4V display.
Meanwhile, Leia, a Silicon Valley startup that provides the Hydrogen One's holographic display will be helping developers adapt games for the display.
Given that 2D photos can't capture images on the 4V display, reporters weren't allowed to take photos. To show off the technology, Red's founder, Jim Jannard, is planning to release carbon-fiber theater kits that will be used by AT&T and Verizon.
The Verge's reviewer also came away from Red's demo impressed by the holographic content, noting it was a big step over 3D on other phones. It noted that the hologram doesn't pop out of the screen but rather adds depth within the image.
It remains to be seen whether the holographic phone will win over fans. The phone is expensive, industrial looking and extremely large, but may appeal to camera enthusiasts given Red's range of modular add-ons.
The Hydrogen One will be available in aluminum for $1,295 while a titanium model costs $1,595.
Previous and related coverage
Cinema-camera maker RED wants to dispel any doubts that its Hydrogen One camera is real.