I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
It looks like
has not acquired Lytro as rumored last week. However, it is true that the company has folded and some of its employees indeed are headed to Google, which the latter confirmed via email. A brief farewell message on Lytro's blog Tuesday read, in part,
It has been an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the cinema and Virtual Reality communities, but starting today we will not be taking on new productions or providing professional services as we prepare to wind down the company.
Lytro became prominent for its light-field technology camera -- the original shoot-now-focus-later camera which optically captures an entire scene with infinite depth of field (DoF) using a kind of reverse ray tracing. The capability was subsequently mimicked using multishot modes in cameras (by Panasonic's Post Focus, for instance) and phones (such as the Galaxy S5). The possible acquisition was reported in TechCrunch.
While Google didn't acquire the company, it's not out of the realm of possibility that it did acquire some of its assets, likely 59 light-field and imaging patents. That infinite DoF capability can be instrumental for creating VR and mixed-reality content because for a real-life experience you're constantly changing the view and focus area while you're immersed.
Lytro launched as a camera company. When we reviewed the original Lytro Light Field Camera in 2012 we found it intriguing, but not quite worth the $400 investment for a meh camera. Its one trick seemed to solve a problem -- post-shot focusing -- that not many people had, and that required processing on a computer. People wanted smarter automatic focus, not more work. And phones eventually solved that problem. Even worse, the software only worked on Windows at launch.
After a few updates to make it more salable, Lytro switched audiences with the Illum. For studio photographers who usually shoot straight into a computer, the post-processing didn't have the same ick factor. Plus, the Illum had a somewhat more traditional camera design. But even with its 40-"megaray" resolution and 30-250mm-equivalent lens it's still a niche product. (You can still buy it on Amazon, which amusingly compares it to the Sigma DP Quattro line, a completely different camera that happens to have a similarly shaped body.)