Technology

Google Looking To Buy Light Field Camera Maker Lytro

Google Lytro
Image Source: Google Store (screenshot)

Google has long been focusing on offering techniques to make your images even better. The search giant recently revealed more imaging tech to enhance the quality of images. Now, it appears it is even considering acquisitions to achieve its objectives.

TechCrunch – citing sources – claims that Google is looking to acquire Lytro, a company that specializes in the light field technology. As per the report, the tech giant is mainly interested in Lytro’s technology and patents, and is ready to pay about $40 million. Another source told TechCrunch that the sale price is lower, at about $25 million.

One more source informs that all of Lytro’s employees are not coming over, and some have already departed. The tech company has 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology.

The start-up gained attention in 2011 for a camera powered by its light field technology that allows users to refocus pictures after they’re taken. Thereafter, the company replaced the original model with the Illum camera in 2014. In 2015, the company shifted its focus to virtual reality, and launched Lytro Immerge, describing it as “the world’s first professional Light Field solution for cinematic VR, providing true presence for live action VR through six degrees of freedom.”

So, this is what might have interested the search giant. Last week, the company revealed the “Welcome to Light Fields” app on Steam with “navigable stills.” The app allows users to “experience real-world reflections, depth, and translucence like never before in VR,” the tech giant says.

Lytro’s technology would perfectly complement this app. Further, TechCrunch notes that Lytro also recently acquired Limitless, developer of the Reaping Rewards VR experience. All this will be very useful for Google as it works to take on rivals like Facebook.

For Lytro and its backers, however, the “sale would be far from a big win,” says TechCrunch. After its last funding round in 2017, the startup was valued at around $360 million, says TechCrunch, citing data from PitchBook. Its investor’s list includes names like Qualcomm Ventures, Foxconn, Greylock, NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, GV and more.

At the time of its last funding round, about a year ago, Lytro’s CEO Jason Rosenthal said, “We believe we have the opportunity to be the company that defines the production pipeline, technologies and quality standards for an entire next generation of content.” However, if TechCrunch’s report is true, then it will be Google setting the future course.

As of now, it is not exactly clear how Google would exactly use Lytro’s tech. There are good chances that it would use the tech in its Pixel smartphones to differentiate them from the iPhones and Galaxy’s. Also, VR is a big thing now, and Google is heavily invested in it. So, it could possibly integrate Lytro’s tech with VR options for YouTube, the Cardboard budget VR goggles, or the Daydream platform.

Talking of VR, Qualcomm has come up with its second reference design headset, which will serve as the basis of the devices from Google Daydream, HTC and Oculus. Qualcomm, whose processors power most of the smartphones, aims to establish its superiority in the VR and AR devices as well.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 VRDK is the next iteration of the Snapdragon 835 VRDK headset. The latest reference design includes a new headset and an SDK for developers. The Snapdragon 845 headset was first announced at MWC 2018, but more details were shared this week at GDC 2018 in San Francisco.

The stand-out feature of the Snapdragon 845 VRDK are room-scale six-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking, a new boundary system, eye tracking powered by Tobii and 6DoF controller support. The headset is capable of mapping a users environment in real-time and also bringing physical world objects into the virtual world, notes TechRadar. Like, a table can be mapped as a rock in the virtual world.

It must be noted that the Snapdragon 845 headset does not need any external sensors, like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, to point your actual position. The Snapdragon 845 VRDK also supports 6DoF controllers. Similar to Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View (2017) headsets, the controllers would allow a user to make selections in VR.

All major tech firms including Google, Facebook and HTC are betting big on an untethered, and phone-free VR future. Currently, all are using Snapdragon processors, and there are good chances that at least their near-future devices would be powered by the processor from the same company. Qualcomm expects Snapdragon 845 VRDK hardware and software to launch somewhere in the second-quarter of 2018.