Several tech sites are now reporting Google plans to acquire light field pioneer Lytro. Speculation is that Google will leverage Lytro’s impressive engineering team to accelerate its development of VR solutions. That makes a great deal of sense, although there are other reasons this deal will provide some value for Google. Unfortunately for Lytro’s investors, the purchase price is rumored to be between $25 million and $40 million, far less than the $210 million invested in Lytro since Ren Ng founded it as Refocus Imaging.
Google Gets Serious About VR Content
The first question asked about the demo was “How is this different from Lytro?” And the answer is that Lytro wants to do the same thing, except with actual video capture instead of patiently constructed still scenes. It has demoed prototypes of both planar and rotating arrays of cameras that can create immersive worlds. These are of particular interest to Hollywood special effects houses, since they can much more easily add virtual creations to a video that includes a full three-dimensional scene than they can to a traditional 2D or even conventional 3D video.
Don’t Forget About Phones
Another possible reason to acquire Lytro and its technology is to accelerate the development of computational imaging in Google’s smartphones and camera-equipped appliances. One of Ng’s mentors at Stanford, Marc Levoy, is now at Google working on exactly that. As smartphones move to multiple cameras working together to provide advanced imaging capabilities, ranging from simulated Bokeh to facial recognition, they move slowly closer to capturing light fields. Lytro’s pioneering work in that area has resulted in dozens of patents, which Google would also presumably get as part of an acquisition.
A Bittersweet Ending for a Radically Innovative Company
Lytro has come a long way from its initial vision of revolutionizing consumer photography with a camera that let you focus after the fact. That strategy itself was not necessarily Lytro’s first choice, but like Foveon before it, licensing its technology to existing camera manufacturers proved nearly impossible. When the consumer camera fizzled, Lytro pivoted to a more professional model, the Illum, but only succeeded in puzzling the marketplace. Finally, Lytro moved into VR capture for the motion picture industry. It has produced some amazing prototypes and some incredible demo videos, but is short on real deployments.
For investors, this deal is certainly making the best of a tough situation. For employees, it’s a mixed bag. Some are reportedly already being let go, while others will no doubt be energized by having the stability and resources of Google at their disposal going forward.
ET Deals Roundup: $200 Gift Card with Samsung 4K TV for $600, $50 Price Drop on Inspiron 15 7000, and more
Ready to upgrade to a 4K television? Maybe you're looking for a new laptop for school, or searching for the perfect camera for an upcoming vacation. Well, there are plenty of discounts floating around this week, so we've put together a list of the hottest deals. If you're looking to save big on new gear, you're bound to find something worthwhile below.
Top-Secret ‘Zuma’ Satellite Launched by SpaceX May Have Been Lost
The recent "Zuma" launch appeared to go off without a hitch, but now there's reason to think the US spy satellite might have been destroyed before going into operation.
SanDisk Shows Off 1TB Flash Drive Prototype
The new USB Type-C stick includes a whopping 1TB of storage.
Samsung to Announce Galaxy S9 at Mobile World Congress in February
Previous rumors pointed to a surprise Galaxy S9 unveiling at CES, which is underway now. However, Samsung is on hand not with the hotly anticipated new Galaxy phone, but with TV, smart home devices, and appliances — lots and lots of appliances.