In the last few years, Lytro has made a major pivot away from consumer-facing digital camera products now to high-end production cameras and tools, with a major part of the company’s focus on the ‘Immerge’ light-field camera for VR. In February, Lytro announced it had raised another $60 million to continue developing the tech. I recently stopped by the company’s offices to see the latest version of the camera and the major improvements in capture quality that come with it.
The first piece of content captured with an Immerge prototype was the ‘Moon’ experience which Lytro revealed back in August of 2016. This was a benchmark moment for the company, a test of what the Immerge camera could do:
Now, to quickly familiarize yourself with what makes a light-field camera special for VR, the important thing to understand is that light-field cameras shoot volumetric video. So while the basic cameras of a 360-degree video rig output flat frames of the scene, a light-field camera is essentially capturing data enough to recreate the scene as complete 3D geometry as seen within a certain volume. The major advantage is the ability to play the scene back through a VR headset with truly accurate stereo and allow the viewer to have proper positional tracking inside the video; both of which result in much more immersive experience, or what we recently called “the future of VR video.” There’s also more advantages of light-field capture that will come later down the road when we start seeing headsets equipped with light-field displays… but that’s for another day.