Water-inspired OnePlus Concept 8T is packed with tech nobody's asking for

Color-shifting film? mmWave radar that registers if you're breathing? Gesture controls? What are you doing OnePlus?

I really don't know what to make of the OnePlus Concept 8T. Similar to the OnePlus Concept One and its "invisible camera" unveiled at CES 2020, the Concept 8T exists as a technology showcase for experimental technologies, not as a product that you can buy.

On the surface, the Concept 8T is very much a regular 8T. Underneath the glass and metal body, OnePlus is throwing around a dizzying list of tech jargon and buzzwords. Like I said: I have no idea what to make of this device.

Inspired by hot springs — According to OnePlus, the Concept 8T takes inspiration from "nature and a burdenless approach to interacting with devices." The two finishes are inspired by "multi-hued flowing water in the hot springs of Pamukkale, Turkey." I'm sure there's someone out there who's moved by this, but also a matte color is nice, too?

Did anyone ask for this? Bring the Cyberpunk 2077 8T to the U.S.!OnePlus

Color-changing film — Then, there's the "Electronic Color, Material and Finish" (ECMF). OnePlus says the Concept 8T has a "color-changing film that contains metal oxide in glass, the valence state of the metal ions varying under different voltages." Uhhh... "That means that when the metal oxide activates, the color of the glass changes from a dark blue to light silver." My mouth is agape, hands in the air, and head shaking confused as I write this.

Reactive Sensing what? — There's more. Apparently, the ECMF is connected to mmWave through its radar technology. Together, OnePlus calls this "Reactive Sensing Technology." I told you it gets really jargon-y. "The mmWave radar module transmits and receives electromagnetic waves. When receiving electromagnetic waves, the digital signal processing (DSP) and CPU perform signal and information processing, allowing the device to perceive, image, locate, and track objects." Are you lost? Confused? Both? Me too.

As if all of that's not wacky enough, there's still more.

In what way can these technologies be applied to enhance the user experience? OnePlus offered two applications: "touchless notifications" and "breathing monitor."

Touchless notifications is just a fancier way of saying gesture control. OnePlus says that the ECMF "could "flash colors for an incoming call, and users could accept or reject the call with a simple gesture." I don't know if OnePlus realizes this, but other OEMs like LG and Google have tried this whole gesture control thing and have had zero success.

As for breathing notifications, OnePlus says the "mmWave technology can register a user’s breathing, enabling the color to change in sync and effectively making the phone a biofeedback device" and that the "OnePlus 8T ECMF breathes with you."

And then, there's the announcement of an internal design team called the "OnePlus Gaudi" (no doubt inspired by architect Antoni Gaudi) to further blend "organic design with industrial design."

Distractions from internal changes — Everything about today's announcements is so bizarre. I still don't know what to make of it. It's all smoke and mirrors when the tech isn't attached to a product that'll actually ship. This is what worries me the most about OnePlus: it's spending time on these superfluous innovations and for what? Bragging rights? This feels like a very Samsung-like move. At the height of Samsung's Galaxy rule, it frequently announced gimmicks that did and didn't see the light of day. It distracted them from making great products that focused on solving real problems. I like OnePlus phones (when they're not pre-installed with Facebook apps and services), but I worry that this is a red herring as the company copes with the loss of co-founder Carl Pei and the changes happening as it outgrows its startup roots.