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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


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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) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> 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.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (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) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday March 21 2018, @09:13PM (#656348) Journal

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

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

      Understanding the dual camera systems on smartphones [gsmarena.com]

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

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (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.

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