First RED teams up with Apple. Then it partners with Apple supplier Foxconn. Soon the company will be launching Hydrogen, its holographically-driven smartphone platform running on the Android operating system. While it doesn't appear to be abandoning the cinema market (be prepared to hear a lot about Monstro this year), the company clearly has bigger ambitions in the consumer space, which offers a massive opportunity for volume sales compared to the relatively few buyers that exist for a $50K camera package. Thus, it makes sense that, in order to connect with that massive consumer audience, RED is working with the dominant social network, Facebook.
While Facebook developed a protoype camera on its own, working with an established camera manufacturer who has a history of fast innovation makes sense.
In a story reported by Variety yesterday after the announcement at the Facebook f8 conference, it appears that RED will create an image capture device for Facebook. This will of course help Facebook push adoption of Oculus, its VR platform, which made big waves when it was acquired but has been slow to take off in the marketplace. While the newly affordable Oculus Go will get more users trying the platform, the key to driving marketshare is having enough content so that every possible interest can be satisfied with enough immersive media to make the purchase worthwhile. While Facebook developed a protoype camera on its own, working with an established camera manufacturer who has a history of fast innovation makes sense.
RED HydrogenCredit: RED
While details are scarce, there is a very intriguing possibility: that this platform will be built not on the technology from the RED single sensor cameras wired together, but will instead involved multiple Hydrogen units strapped together. Since Hydrogen is designed to capture in the proprietary "4 View" format, providing a hologram light experience, wrapping several 4 view sensors together could combine to give a more immersive experience than is traditionally possible with 360° image capture. Since a traditional immersive video rig sits in one place, viewers are generally stuck with only three degrees of movement (they can pan, tilt and rotate their head), but can't move around through space the way that is possible with a generated VR space like those created by a game engine. By using holographic capture technology, a larger amount of freedom could be possible, such that if you move a few feet side to see you actually get to see different parallax-enabled views of a scene.
No information on pricing yet, and even if it's based on Hydrogen, packing eight Hydrogen units together would run the unit easily up to $16,000 without accounting for additional syncing and stitching hardware, so whatever it is will be pricey. But considering RED's relationships with filmmakers, willingness to innovate, and push into holographics, we're excited to see what comes out.