Lytro Shocks the World and Builds the Most Ambitious Virtual Reality Camera

Most of us know Lytro for their light field cameras that capture scenes in a way that allows you to refocus an image anywhere you want with the click of a button without having to take a new image. I'll admit, I thought it was a neat trick, but as a commercial photographer, I never saw how it would apply to someone like myself. Well, Lytro has blown me away today with the announcement of their new virtual reality camera system that works much like their light field cameras and allows the user to move within a video environment (not a computer-rendered space) while wearing a virtual reality headset. They have officially changed the game.

Specific technical details are limited, but the sample video above has made me a believer. You can actually see how you can move within a filmed space. You see, up until now, this really was not possible in the virtual reality space, unless the environment was rendered, much like a video game in 3D. Otherwise, you were stuck looking around in all directions from a central axis.

Apparently, you can only lean in about six degrees with this Lytro camera (see example video at this link), but even that amount of movement will allow for an incredible amount of improved immersion in the virtual reality experience. They will be launching their own players, apps, and editing support as well. I have a feeling this camera and associated technology will make post production much easier than it is for current 360 degree VR camera systems.

There's no word on pricing, but expect it to be close to six figures. Any camera that requires its own server rack will most certainly cost a pretty penny.

Learn more about the camera on the Lytro page.

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18 Comments

"Specific technical details are limited, but the sample video above has made me a believer." Are we 100% sure these are genuine images they are showing or are they simulated for the video? This is a pretty tall order and has me very skeptical. . .

Douglas Sonders's picture

it's certainly implied that this is a representation of its capabilities, but you're right, it isn't confirmed, but I doubt they would lie about this. I know lidar-based cameras were being tested to do similar things.

Ya that video doesn't seem possible the way that they have explained it. How can it see behind the boat?

There is no boat...

What do you think the guy was building? That was a boat., or technically a canoe.

Neo Racer's picture

They could have multiple light field cameras all around the room, so you'd be well covered in capturing light from every existing angle

Austin Burke's picture

I agree since every other 360 degree type camera has poor quality since they use 2 1080p sensors which sounds good till you realize you get 480p quality. Though I still signed up for the prototype testing and hope I get accepted, I have a few projects this could really work for

Jon Wolding's picture

Taking bets on first industry to really use this tech: real estate, gaming, or porn?

Austin Burke's picture

Well depending on the price and if the quality is like this found in the video I could see myself using it for real estate and hooking my friends band up with one to record shows with. Could see it being interesting in a live performance type of experince.

Virtual reality video has interested me and I would love to give it a try, would be great for horror and some thrillers but in the end it is a gimmick for the most part. there are some fun experinces to be had with it though for video

Douglas Sonders's picture

haha youre late to the game my friends. VR is already being sold to various industries. as a vr content creator, Ive been approached by huge porn companies but the money doesnt compare to the big ad campaigns. Too much effort and post production for a high volume low unit cost like real estate in my opinion

Elias Hardt's picture

This isn't for photography or videography. This is solely for the 3D artists in the room. The ability to essentially create a deep HDRI in REAL TIME? That alone makes this more than usable for a studio.

Tony Northrup's picture

The last frame of the video says, "Lytro Immerge conceptual renderings and simulations are used in this video."

So, that means we (probably) didn't see the real camera, not even a design mockup, nor real sample footage. I think this is the high-end version of a Kickstarter video, designed to get Venture capitalists to keep Lytro alive.

The video of the boat that seemed to shift perspective? Probably just a camera on a stabilizer that they moved around. Based on what I see, I don't think this is real.

Lee commented, "Ya that video doesn't seem possible the way that they have explained it. How can it see behind the boat?"

We reviewed the Illum and what it could do was (sort of) map the depth of a still photo. To shift perspective, it would separate the foreground from the background, and then move the foreground. It would synthesize the missing pieces of the background, just like Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop... except it didn't work very well. So, if you shifted something, you wouldn't actually see behind it, you'd see computer-generated fill that was often jarring and weird.

Douglas Sonders's picture

Great point. Thank you Tony

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

I enjoy seeing technology like this come out which further supports VR and pushes the boundaries of video. Unfortunately VR is still a wealthy mans hobby and always will be until someone does it in a way that makes it available to the average consumer. You know.. my clients :)

Douglas Sonders's picture

Hey, there's always entry-level tech like the RIcho Theta pocket VR camera for a few hundred and youtube and facebook now offer 360 video playing platforms, among others. Not so far-fetched of a tech as you'd think!

Tim Fitzwater's picture

The world is so shocked!!! Stop the presses! Forget about the refugee crisis - CNN is covering this 24/7!
Shocked! Shocked, I am! We are all shocked! I'm shocked, you're shocked, everyone is shocked - how do I go back to normal life!

Douglas Sonders's picture

im so glad you agree! I intended it to be an industry-specific shock, but certainly, you're allowed to feel your life overwhelmed by my article!