Lytro burst onto the scene in 2011 with its then-unprecedented “light field” technology that powered an oddly-shaped camera with the ability to refocus pictures after they’re taken. The first $400 camera arrived in 2012, however, after a pivot to virtual reality (where its technology creates photographs and videos that you can move around in to experience from different angles) and pro cameras, TechCrunch reports the company will be acquired by Google. According to unnamed sources, Google is mostly grabbing the company’s technology and patents for about $40 million, with some employees having already departed.
So what could Google have in mind? Light field technology has a lot of implications for virtual reality, and just last week Google launched a “Welcome to Light Fields” app on Steam with “navigable stills” where users can “experience real-world reflections, depth, and translucence like never before in VR.” Lytro’s tech is perfect for this application, and for videos where users could change their perspective in VR. TechCrunch also points out that Lytro itself recently acquired Limitless, developer of the Reaping Rewards VR experience, to work on technology to blend animation with light-field captured live action video.
All of that could come in handy as Google takes on Facebook (with its upcoming Oculus Go mass-market VR device), Magic Leap and all the rest.