Google Is Reportedly Buying Light-Field Camera Startup Lytro

Several sources have indicated that tech giant Google is warming to acquire Lytro. Lytro is an imaging startup company, which mainly deals in light-field technology. Several sources believe this will be an “asset sale” deal and the startup will be acquired for any amount not more than $40 million. Another source has indicated that the asking price for the startup is likely to be $25 million. The source further says that the startup has been on the shopping list of many tech companies including Facebook.

Lytro has a total of 59 patents, which are related to digital imaging and light-field technologies. The company was launched in 2006 and launched the first consumer camera that uses the technology. This technology enables the camera to refocus photos to any part of the image after it has taken the photo. The company’s cameras are able to this by collecting all the light ray from the scene plus the information on their origin.

Since its launch, the startup only managed successfully make two consumer cameras although they did not perform well in the market. The company later shifted its efforts towards production of light-field video solutions that could be used in Virtual Reality and cinema. In December last year, the company halted the production and distribution of Lytro cameras that are used for photography. The company launched an online platform, pictures.lytro.com,where pictures taken using Lytro cameras could be posted and shared for users to see the camera’s 3D depth and refocusing features.

Although details on the exact plans of Google for Lytro remain scanty, Google is said to be pursuing the acquisition so as to boost its own VR efforts. Google recently tested its light-field photography. The testing involved modding one of the 16-camera circular “Jump” rigs that were developed by Google some year back with GoPro cameras. During the experiment, Google took the cameras out of their original set up. The cameras were then placed in a vertical arc and then put on a platform which rotates 360 degrees. Google made available the shots that it hard made on an immersive photo viewer app which it released and called “Light Fields.”

If Google succeeds in buying Lytro at the much rumored $40 million, it will mark a tough exit for the startup. For the years it has been in existence, the startup has managed to raise more than $200 million in project funding and was valued at about $360 million as recently as 2017.

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