ROKiT debuts radical 3D tech in new phones — and bigger goals of social change

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When was the last time a new mobile phone offered you truly jaw-dropping tech? Something more than a sharper camera or bigger screen — something you’d never seen before? You might be able to count backwards and pinpoint the time, years ago, when an innovative new feature gave you that wow moment. This week, the answer got a lot simpler, thanks to the debut of ROKiT’s groundbreaking, stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D smartphone technology. This game-changing tech is exclusive to ROKiT’s two brand new 3D smartphones, part of a larger launch of five new mobile devices. And here’s a bigger question, one crucial to ROKiT co-founders John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick. When was the last time a mobile phone seemed like it could change the world for the better? ROKiT is on a mission to do just that. At the official launch of the company’s line of mobile phones, DeJoria and Kendrick took the stage at LA’s Downtown Independent theater to share their vision for fundamentally changing the wa..

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When was the last time a new mobile phone offered you truly jaw-dropping tech? Something more than a sharper camera or bigger screen — something you’d never seen before? You might be able to count backwards and pinpoint the time, years ago, when an innovative new feature gave you that wow moment. This week, the answer got a lot simpler, thanks to the debut of ROKiT’s groundbreaking, stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D smartphone technology. This game-changing tech is exclusive to ROKiT’s two brand new 3D smartphones, part of a larger launch of five new mobile devices.

And here’s a bigger question, one crucial to ROKiT co-founders John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick.

When was the last time a mobile phone seemed like it could change the world for the better?

ROKiT is on a mission to do just that. At the official launch of the company’s line of mobile phones, DeJoria and Kendrick took the stage at LA’s Downtown Independent theater to share their vision for fundamentally changing the way we interact with our smartphones — and how they hope to improve the lives of billions of people, in the process.

ROKiT co-founders Jonathan Kendrick and John Paul DeJoria

ROKiT co-founders Jonathan Kendrick and John Paul DeJoria

Each made his fortune in other industries — DeJoria as co-founder of the Patron Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems, and Kendrick with Yokohama Tires — and now employ a philosophy of “compassionate capitalism” to help make life easier for lower-income people around the globe. As DeJoria put it from the stage, “Success unshared is a failure.”

Enter their plans for ROKiT. The idea is fairly simple, in the way most revolutionary ideas can be: design low-cost but high-performing mobile phones and WiFi, and then package the phones’ service plans alongside potentially life-changing social services, for a very low subscription fee. Get these affordable phones and plans into the hands of the people who will benefit from them, and suddenly homeless vets on Skid Row and rural families in India alike now have access to reliable communication and a host of other crucial services. More on those shortly.

ROKiT's new IO 3D smartphone

ROKiT's new IO 3D smartphone

The plan wouldn’t work without mind-blowing tech, and ROKiT delivers there with ease. The flagship smartphones of the company’s line, the IO 3D and IO Pro 3D, feature ROKiT’s stunning 3D display technology. At the launch, DeJoria and Kendrick found a clever and effective way to show off their technological coup. First, they had the audience don 3D glasses (”Antiquated,” Kendrick quipped) to watch a 3D sizzle reel of shows and movies available on ROKiT devices. Then, staff gave ROKiT IO Pro 3D phones to every audience member, and we watched the same 3D sizzle reel—this time, without glasses, just on the phones stereoscopic screen.

The crowd samples ROKiT's 3D tech

The crowd samples ROKiT's 3D tech

One expects these launch events to come with a certain amount of built-in hype from attendees, but here, the reactions in the room were genuine. “Wow!” came from all over the room, along with a few unprintable expletives said in stunned appreciation, the crowd’s excited whispering and laughing bouncing across the theater. The clips — from popular blockbusters, live sporting events and concerts, original 3D and animated shows from ROKiT Studios, and more — floated inches off of the screen.

At a tennis match, a strong serve sent a ball flying out of the screen. On a ROKiT cooking show, a chef offered a pizza fresh from the oven, practically mouth-watering while hovering in front of your face. Yes, action sequences from movies and games saw projectiles flying realistically out of the phone, but the 3D tech offered more than these types of optical illusions. The content had real depth-of-field, all without big-screen, glasses-enabled 3D’s tendency to make the viewer feel dizzy or nauseated.

ROKiT launch attendees testing out the new IO Pro 3D

ROKiT launch attendees testing out the new IO Pro 3D

ROKiT has priced the 3D-enabled IO 3D and IO Pro 3D at $199 and $299, respectively, price points that make cutting-edge technology — along with all the usual accoutrements of a high-level smartphone — far more affordable than the four-digit price tag on many leading in-market smartphones. To put the 3D tech to use, the phones come pre-loaded with the ROKiT 3D app, which gives users access to one of the world’s biggest libraries of 3D content, complete with popular films and custom shows produced by ROKiT Studios.

DeJoria and Kendrick know very well that this kind of revelatory technology would typically be made available only to those at a high income bracket. But, as DeJoria put it, “Entertainment should not be class-based.”

The full line of ROKiT's new phones

The full line of ROKiT's new phones

Nor should communication, reflected in the three other phones that round out ROKiT’s line. The IO Light, a non-3D smartphone, the F-One, an old-school flip-phone, and the ROKiT One, a “classic bar phone,” are similarly designed to merge quality tech with affordability. The IO Light is priced under $100, and the F-One and One both come in under $40. All come preloaded with ROK Talk, unlimited WiFi calling worldwide to over sixty countries, along with WhatsApp and Facebook. Together with their 3D phones, ROKiT’s entire line seeks to fundamentally alter the mobile device market by declaring accessibility a priority of equal importance to technological innovation and quality design. It will likely make more than a few big tech companies uncomfortable.

So, too, might ROKiT’s most revolutionary initiative. To explain, DeJoria points to his own past experience as a Navy veteran. At the launch event, he pointed out that the venue was mere blocks away from Skid Row, where many homeless — including veterans — live on the streets. Wanting to help his fellow veterans, DeJoria gave away many free phones to homeless vets in the LA area. But he wasn’t just giving away phones. Here’s the real power of ROKiT’s strategy: people who buy select models of the new line receive a free year of ROK Health. And ROK Health could change everything for many people in need.

With ROK Health, a bundle designed to benefit the whole family, users can video call doctors for 24/7 telemedicine consultations, where they can receive diagnoses, advice, and prescriptions. If one family member has the phone and its plan, the entire family up to the age of 26 can use these services. Under the ROK Life umbrella, the program bundles ROK Health’s telemedicine and discounted pharmaceuticals with 24/7 roadside assistance, and family legal services, all unaffordable to billions of people worldwide. ROK Life, too, gives subscribers insurance for accidental death, burial and cremation, and identity theft. These are potentially life-changing services for families across the world, whether in rural America, urban India, or elsewhere.

Kendrick and DeJoria share visions of global social change

Kendrick and DeJoria share visions of global social change

India has a key role in ROKiT’s plans, in fact. DeJoria and Kendrick introduced ROKiT Cities at the launch event, a titanic initiative the company will undertake in partnership with the Indian government to provide WiFi to 27 of India’s biggest cities and 300,000 of its villages — comprising 1.1 billion people. ROKiT will install WiFi nodes on every lamppost in these cities, blanketing the area in WiFi that will cost three dollars for unlimited data.

In DeJoria’s example, this connectivity will allow, for instance, individual merchants in India to cut out middlemen from their business practices, raising their own profitability and the overall profitability of their communities. DeJoria expressed the driving principle behind the idea as such: “Every one of us is valuable only in relation to our service to others.”

Ultimately, DeJoria, Kendrick, and ROKiT hope to further democratize the internet and the web’s content itself, erasing lines drawn by class in the digital world. For many of us, this will mean incredible 3D technology that will change the way we view online entertainment forever. For others, it will mean access to life-giving services and affordable connections to the world outside of local borders. For the world as a whole, ROKiT is just getting started.

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