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posted by martyb on Wednesday March 21 2018, @07:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the shade-of-its-former-self dept.

Google is reportedly acquiring Lytro, a company that made light field cameras and hoped to pivot to virtual reality video capture. Google appears to have gotten a good (or at least cheap) deal:

Multiple sources tell us that Google is acquiring Lytro, the imaging startup that began as a ground-breaking camera company for consumers before pivoting to use its depth-data, light-field technology in VR.

One source described the deal as an "asset sale" with Lytro going for no more than $40 million. Another source said the price was even lower: $25 million. A third source tells us that not all employees are coming over with the company's technology: some have already received severance and parted ways with the company, and others have simply left. Assets would presumably also include Lytro's 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology.

The sale would be far from a big win for Lytro and its backers. The startup has raised just over $200 million in funding and was valued at around $360 million after its last round in 2017, according to data from PitchBook.

Despite a lot of hype, Lytro had little success with its expensive, ergonomically challenged, and low resolution light field cameras for consumers.

Also at 9to5Google and Engadget.

Related: LinkedIn's Top 10 Silicon Valley Startups for 'Talent Brand' - Note: Both Lytro and Theranos are on the list.
A Pocket Camera with Many Eyes - Inside the Development of Light

Original Submission

Related Stories

LinkedIn's Top 10 Silicon Valley Startups for 'Talent Brand' 11 comments

LinkedIn has published its third annual list of the top ten startups (fewer than 500 employees) in Silicon Valley most attractive to IT professionals, based on analysis of views and follows of company Linkedin pages, and pages of company employees, made by site members residing in the USA or Canada during the past year.

This year's top ten were Lytro (plenoptic cameras), Theranos (fingerstick blood tests), Fitbit (wearable fitness trackers), Coursera (online learning), Minted (greeting cards and wedding invitations), Wealthfront (investment management for individuals), Bromium (hypervisor-based security software), Twilio (cloud-based telephony), Egnyte (enterprise file storage), and Leap Motion (gesture user interface).

fyamuse: the LinkedIn blogger coaxed the honorees to choose theme songs, each of which are linked in TFA to YouTube videos.

Only one of the top ten (Coursera) was a repeat from last year's list. So what happened to the others? The answer is pretty impressive: three of the ten went public, while six others now have valuations between 1 and 10 billion USD.

A Pocket Camera with Many Eyes - Inside the Development of Light 13 comments

The creator of the new Light digital camera explains how he made it work:

The best digital cameras today are SLRs (single-lens reflex cameras), which use a movable mirror to guide the same light rays that fall on the sensor into the viewfinder. These cameras normally have precisely ground glass lenses and large, high-quality image sensors. In the right hands, they can shoot amazing pictures, with brilliant colours and pleasing lighting effects, often showing a crisply focused subject and an aesthetically blurred background.

But these cameras are big, heavy, and expensive: A good digital SLR (DSLR) with a decent set of lenses—including a standard 50 mm, a wide angle, and a telephoto, for example—can easily set you back thousands of dollars.

So most photos today aren't being shot with DSLRs but with the tiny camera modules built into mobile phones. Nobody pretends these pictures match the quality of a photograph taken by a good DSLR; they tend to be grainy, and the camera allows very little artistic control. But smartphone cameras certainly are easy to carry around.

Can't we have it both ways ? Couldn't a high-quality yet still-tiny camera somehow be fit into a mobile device ?

The Light camera starts with a collection of inexpensive plastic-lens camera modules and mechanically driven mirrors. We put them in a device that runs the standard Android operating system along with some smart algorithms. The result is a camera that can do just about everything a DSLR can—and one thing it can't: fit in your pocket.

Original Submission

Blood Unicorn Fairy Tale: Theranos Founder Charged With Fraud 28 comments

The black turtleneck-wearing founder of Theranos has been accused of swindling investors out of $700 million for blood-testing technology that amounted to smoke and mirrors. However, Elizabeth Holmes will only have to pay a $500,000 fine and surrender millions of worthless shares:

The Blood Unicorn Theranos Was Just a Fairy Tale

[...] Securities and Exchange Commission today brought fraud charges against Holmes, Theranos and its former president, Sunny Balwani, and its complaint alleges pretty strongly that the investors were just as bamboozled as everybody else. In fact, Theranos made direct use of its positive press to raise money: It "sent investors a binder of background materials," which included "articles and profiles about Theranos, including the 2013 and 2014 articles from The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Fortune that were written after Holmes provided them with interviews" and that included her misleading claims about the state of Theranos's technology. She also repeated those claims to investors directly: "For instance, Holmes and Balwani told one investor that Theranos' proprietary analyzer could process over 1,000 Current Procedural Terminology ('CPT') codes and that Theranos had developed a technological solution for an additional 300 CPT codes," even though "Theranos' analyzers never performed comprehensive testing or processed 1,000 CPT codes in its clinical lab," and in fact never processed more than 12 tests on its TSPU. And Theranos would even do a little pantomime blood-draw demonstration directly on the investors:

This initial meeting was often followed by a purported demonstration of Theranos' proprietary analyzers, the TSPU, and the miniLab. In several instances, potential investors would be taken by Holmes and Balwani to a different room to view Theranos' desktop computer-like analyzers. A phlebotomist would arrive to draw their blood through fingerstick, using a nanotainer, a Theranos-developed collection device. Then the sample was either inserted into the TSPU or taken away for processing. Based on what they saw, potential investors believed that Theranos had tested their blood on either an earlier-generation TSPU or the miniLab. As Holmes knew, or was reckless in not knowing, however, Theranos often actually tested their blood on third-party analyzers, because Theranos could not conduct all of the tests it offered prospective investors on its proprietary analyzers.

Also at The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Time.

Previously: Theranos Introduces New Product to Distract from Scandal
Theranos Lays Off 340, Closes Labs and "Wellness Centers"
Theranos Given Indirect Lifeline From Softbank

Original Submission

Xiaomi Teams Up with Light to Develop Multi-Module Cameras for Smartphones 7 comments

Xiaomi Teams Up with Light for Multi-Module Smartphone Cameras

Xiaomi and Light, a computational imaging firm, have announced at Mobile World Congress that the two companies will be working together to develop new multi-module cameras for smartphones. The two companies promised that the jointly-developed cameras will feature DSLR-level capabilities, but did not disclose when the first product from the joint project is expected to come to fruition.

Light specializes on computational imaging solutions using multiple camera arrays. The company has gone so far as to develop their own chip that can work with 6, 12, or 18-camera arrays. And while Xiaomi and Light aren't specifying just how big of a camera array they're looking to develop, we're likely looking at something in the lower-bounds of those number, if only due to the limited size of smartphones. For reference's sake, a 6-module camera would be very similar to what Nokia has done for their Nokia 9 PureView.

Cover the entire back of a smartphone with cameras, then gingerly hold it using the corners.

Related: Meta-Lens Works in the Visible Spectrum, Sees Smaller Than a Wavelength of Light
A Pocket Camera with Many Eyes - Inside the Development of Light
Caltech Replaces Lenses With Ultra-Thin Optical Phased Array
Nokia (HMD Global) Partners with Zeiss for Optics Capabilities
Google Reportedly Acquires Lytro, Which Made Refocusable Light Field Cameras
LG's V40 Smartphone Could Include Five Cameras
Leaked Image Shows Nokia-Branded Smartphone With Five Rear Cameras

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by AnonTechie on Wednesday March 21 2018, @08:02PM (6 children)

    by AnonTechie (2275) on Wednesday March 21 2018, @08:02PM (#656308) Journal

    This goes to show that it takes a lot more than just money, to get a good idea from the drawing board to a commercially successful product.

    Albert Einstein - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
    • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by cocaine overdose on Wednesday March 21 2018, @08:16PM

      Is your signature ironic or intentional.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:06PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:06PM (#656339) Journal

      The dual camera smartphones that are coming out around now can create depth maps which should be able to mimic that ability to refocus images after they are taken.

      While some camera companies are still around and selling consumer-oriented digital cameras, people are more likely to have a smartphone on them at all times rather than a purpose-built camera. Being a relatively new entrant into the camera market is apparently worse than being yet another smartphone brand. Pivoting to VR capture cameras was a *potentially* good idea (still prone to abysmal failure) that came too late for the company. And now Google has sucked in a healthy serving of patents and employees for far less than it is usually willing to spend.

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      • (Score: 1) by milsorgen on Wednesday March 21 2018, @11:03PM (1 child)

        by milsorgen (6225) on Wednesday March 21 2018, @11:03PM (#656378)

        While some camera companies are still around and selling consumer-oriented digital cameras

        Dedicated camera, digital or otherwise won't be going anywhere. Look at Sonys return to the market over the last few years, growth in mirrorless cameras etc. Phones are for the people who 90% of the time would never have bought a camera to begin with.

        On the Oregon Coast, born and raised, On the beach is where I spent most of my days...
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @10:43PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @10:43PM (#656373)

      This may have been a good idea, but it didn't solve any problems that were pressing enough for consumers to pay that much more for so much less camera.

      Foveon also failed even though it was a much more useful technology, but in both cases they weren't good enough to compete with the other options. Lytro was particularly strange in that it was a weird form factor and a significantly lower resolution.

      • (Score: 2) by driverless on Thursday March 22 2018, @05:02AM

        by driverless (4770) on Thursday March 22 2018, @05:02AM (#656483)

        That was my feeling as well, I'm surprised Lytro is valued at anything above $0. It solves no identifiable problem beyond "what should I write my PhD thesis on?".

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Booga1 on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:01PM (6 children)

    by Booga1 (6333) on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:01PM (#656337)

    As a photographer, I so wanted this. It would be one more tool in the bag for getting shots that couldn't be had any other way. Being able to take a moment and change the focus to anywhere in the shot is groundbreaking.
    Unfortunately, the resolution was what killed it for me. It was just too low a resolution, especially at launch, with only 1 megapixel output. When it came out in 2011, cheap point and shoot camera sensors were already 12 megapixels. Flagship cameras were 18 megapixels.

    If it had launched with say, 5 megapixels, I think they might have had something worth buying.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:10PM (1 child)

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:10PM (#656344)

      I agree entirely. I looked at these several times, but the price put me off. Probably 2 times what I would have spent.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:13PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:13PM (#656348) Journal

      This is the most technically advanced smartphone camera ever made [] (Huawei P9)

      Dual-camera phones are the future of mobile photography []

      Understanding the dual camera systems on smartphones []

      Most people will be introduced to these features by their smartphones.

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      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22 2018, @03:15AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22 2018, @03:15AM (#656461)

        I'm not a photo guru, but those all sound like software improvements not hardware. Just two cameras with software to mix the photos in different ways. CAT has an IR camera on their phone and can mix the IR and visible light pictures together.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:20PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:20PM (#656350)

      Agreed. I also wanted this to succeed. There's another company called Raytrix, that also does light field cameras, but they make industrial stuff.

      I really hope Google doesn't just screw this thing and abandon it like they have done with pretty much everything.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @11:27PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21 2018, @11:27PM (#656385)

        I really hope Google doesn't just screw this thing and abandon it like they have done with pretty much everything.

        This is just one more reason to make patents and copyrights non-transferable. They should be allowed a perpetual license, not the patents themselves. As long as intellectual property law remains this corrupt, it should be given nothing but contempt! It is theft of the worst kind.