|This article reads like a news release, or is otherwise written in an overly promotional tone. (June 2013)|
|Key people||Ren Ng, Executive Chairman; Kurt Akeley, CTO; Charles Chi, Interim CEO|
Lytro, Inc. is a light-field camera startup company founded in 2006 by Ren Ng, a light-field photography researcher at Stanford University. Lytro's products are targeted to consumer use, while the first company to enter the market of plenoptic cameras, German company Raytrix, has targeted its products to industrial and scientific applications of light-field photography.
Lytro produces its own cameras rather than licensing its technology with an established manufacturer. In 2011, Lytro demonstrated capability to produce a camera that allows users to change the focus of a picture after the picture is taken. According to TechCrunch, plenoptic cameras, such as Lytro's, capture the entire light field around a picture, all in one shot taken on a single device, rather than just capturing one plane of light. As a result, users can refocus photos after they have already been taken, change the orientation and display the photos in 3D."
While he was a researcher at Stanford, Ng was photographing a friend's daughter and noticed "it was incredibly difficult to focus the image properly and capture her fleeting smile in just the right way." After completing his Ph.D, Ng decided to use his experience in light field research to "start a company that would produce light-field cameras that everyone could enjoy." The company was originally named Refocus Imaging, before launching as Lytro.
Lytro board members include Ben Horowitz, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz; Patrick Chung, partner at NEA; and TiVo cofounder Mike Ramsay, with Charles Chi of Greylock Partners serving as Executive Chairman. Advisors include Intuit cofounder Scott Cook, VMware cofounder Diane Greene, Dolby Labs chairman Peter Gotcher and Sling Media cofounder Blake Krikorian.
Lytro founder Ng was Lytro's first CEO. Lytro’s Chief Technology Officer Kurt Akeley was a founding member of Silicon Graphics. In June of 2012 Ren Ng announced that he would be changing roles and be Lytro's Executive Chairman focused on innovation. Charles Chi would change from Executive Chairman to interim CEO while Lytro's board begins looking for a new CEO.
Lytro's plenoptic camera features a matrix of tiny lenses on a sensing chip. These sensors gather light from different sources and directions. The camera itself is a squared-off tube less than five inches long with a lens opening at one end and an LCD touch screen at the other. The first generation of the camera comes in two options: one with 8GB of memory (which can hold 350 pictures) and one with 16GB (which can hold 750 pictures).
As of June 21, 2011, Lytro has raised approximately $50 million. This round of funding was led by NEA, with participation of investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners and K9 Ventures and along with individual investors.
Light-field photography (also known as plenoptic photography) captures the available light in a scene coming from more than one direction. It works by breaking up the main image with an array of microlenses over an image sensor. The camera software then uses this data to determine the general directions of incoming light rays. Currently the images can be offloaded only on Apple computers and PCs running Windows 7 64-bit or Windows 8 64-bit.
Features of a plenoptic camera include:
- Refocusing: Users are able to refocus images after they are taken, mostly limited to either the foreground or background.
- Speed: Because there is no need to focus the lens before taking a picture, a plenoptic camera can capture images more quickly than conventional point-and-shoot digital cameras.
- Low-light sensitivity: the ability to adjust focus in post-processing allows the use of larger apertures than are feasible on conventional cameras, thus enabling photography in low-light environments without a flash.
- 3D images: since a plenoptic camera records depth information (which allows it to focus at variable depths), stereo images can be constructed in software from a single plenoptic image capture.
One drawback is low resolution: Users will be able to convert Lytro camera's proprietary image into a regular JPEG file, at a desired focal plane. The resulting image has 1080 × 1080 pixels – roughly 1.2 megapixels, and only 0.78 megapixels for a traditional 4x6 print.
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