Google to Buy Lytro in Virtual Reality Asset Sale

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

If reports are correct, Google may be buying Lytro, the unique light field camera company, for $40 million. It could be part of their move to push virtual reality in cinema and it could yield some tremendous dividends.

The “asset sale” acquisition, not only includes the company, but over 59 patents pertaining to light-field and imaging technologies.  Considering that Lytro was valued at nearly ten times that just last year after receiving $200 million in additional funding, that’s a bargain.

The light field technology developed by Lytro uses an algorithm to determine depth of field and distance between any subject within an image. Then, using computational imaging, focus can be changed to any portion of the image in a post production workflow.

“We believe we have the opportunity to be the company that defines the production pipeline, technologies and quality standards for an entire next generation of content,” Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote in a blog post.

While making an odd, rectangular cameras that can take stills images for years, Lytro introduced a light field cinema camera just last year, making it possible to create a vast array of editing decisions in post production that could be affected just like the still image models.  That camera was about as large an IMAX camera, but Lytro’s head Jon Karafin, said that they were working to make the light field video camera more portable and hand-held.

Lytro also has a spherical virtual reality camera that is designed to work for video games and other applications that require 360 degree light field video. But its ideal application may be within the realm of creating virtual sets, which can be crafted based on light and depth information that can be gleaned in green screen situations. With that data, special effects can really craft a virtual background that is truly three dimension, like a 21st century digital version of the multi plane camera developed by the Walt Disney Company in the late 30s.

Moreover, Lytro’s technology is definitely bleeding edge to the extreme, it has struggled to gain much traction in the marketplace. Their original still image camera was a bit of an odd duck, that was pulled a few years after introducing it, and the cinema camera is still very much an experimental technology demonstrator.

At the end of the day, it may be the best thing for Google to be able to take the technology and develop it where it needs to go. The Alphabet company has been putting millions into virtual reality and 360° video, having begun with the 16 camera array co-developed with GoPro, before refining the design through a partnership with Xiaomi.

Is this what VR needs to gain traction? Perhaps, but it’s definitely what Lytro needs to go to the next level.

Hat Tip – TechCrunch




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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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