Lytro is the brainchild of Dr. Ren Ng, a Stanford PhD whose dissertation on light-field technology five years ago was showered with awards. Now, with the help of $50 million in funding, most of it from Andreessen Horowitz, Ng has built a company that’s preparing to launch a focus-free digital camera later this year.
The basic premise of Lytro’s technology is pretty simple: The camera captures all the information it possibly can about the field of light in front of it. You then get a digital photo that is adjustable in an almost infinite number of ways. You can focus anywhere in the picture, change the light levels — and presuming you’re using a device with a 3-D ready screen — even create a picture you can tilt and shift in three dimensions. (I got a demonstration of the camera’s 3-D photos on a laptop and was blown away.)
You might think that this would produce unfeasibly large digital files, but Ng insists that the files will be roughly comparable to the average size of a digital photo today. The heavy lifting is being done by the camera’s on-board processors, he says. And because its light sensor is incredibly sensitive, you can capture low-light situations like restaurants a lot more easily — even without the flash.
You do not want to miss this: Although the camera itself isn’t due out until late 2011, Lytro on Tuesday unveiled a carousel of demonstration snapshots — all of them embeddable, available in Flash for the web and HTML5 for your smartphone. BE SURE TO CHECK THIS OUT! I already reserved mine!