Lytro’s success with consumers has been limited at best, but the company has reloaded and created a camera designed to shoot high-quality 360-degree virtual reality video.
Lytro reloads with the Immerge
Lytro, a nine-year-old California startup introduced its first consumer camera in 2012 without enjoying much success in and arena populated by bigger more trusted names. In 2014, the company introduced its “light field technology” which was aimed at the DSLR crowd, but like its first efforts the company once again came up short in the eyes of most who bought or considered buying the camera.
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Now, Lytro has shifted its sights to 360-degree virtual-reality video with the Immerge. The immerse is a massive camera rig measuring about a cubic meter and a bit bigger than a basketball mounted on a custom tripod. It’s comprised of hundreds of cameras in order to capture the full 360-degrees it wants to offer its users.
Like the camera last year, the Immerge offers “light field technology,” specifically the sphere encases five rings of light field cameras as well as an array of sensors. Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal recently told reporters that this set up will allow end-users equipped with a VR headset to move up and down, forward and backward, as well as side to side. An effect that Rosenthal is referring to as “six degrees of freedom.”
“Right now, virtual reality video lets you look around in 360-degrees, but you’re in a fixed position. You can’t move freely around a room unless it’s fully computer generated like a videogame,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “Immerge will be the first system that’ll let content creators and filmmakers create video that offers a real feeling of presence. You’ll be able to move around naturally.”
This is Lytros future
No specific price has been given for the new camera, but it will be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like the price tag the company is keeping the technical specifications “close to the vest” for now. And given its six figure price tag Rosenthal expects that most professionals will look to rent the Immerge rather than purchase it.
While Lytro’s Illum camera will still be sold it’s on its way out as Rosenthal believes that 360 video shooting is the future. The company is also working on a wheeled server that will store and process the footage shot my the Immerge and will provide editing plugins for popular platforms like Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere and Nuke.
Additionally, the company is planning on introducing a streaming service for video shot using the emerge in a bold undertaking.
“Nobody is taking a full end-to-end, systematic approach to creating VR content,” he said. “We can do this. We have the technology and we’re making the tools that will allow content producers to make really fantastic VR video,” Rosenthal said as he laid out the company’s future.
Lytro is a privately held startup that raised $50 million in February in a round of funding that was led by GSV Capital.
GSV and Lytro are hoping to have working prototypes of the Immerge ready to introduce to film studios and media outlets in the first quarter of 2016.
VR’s future is a matter of when not if
There are far too many major tech players looking at virtual reality to think for a moment that VR is suddenly just going to go away as it did, for the most part, for a decade after it was first introduced.
With more and more companies, getting involved and more and more viewers being designed and deliver at lower price points, more and more viewers will be sold. But to sell them there will need to be content to offer and it appears as though Lytro plans to be the camera used for the filming of such things as uber immersive porn to “walk through” home sales.