Lytro Sprinkles VR Magic on Its Flagship Camera and Software

Lytro wants to transform from a novel consumer camera company into an enabler of virtual reality experiences. To lay the groundwork for the change, it’s pushing out big updates to its flagship camera and desktop software.

The Illum camera, launched last summer, gets new firmware that brings all the interactivity of Lytro’s so-called living pictures to the camera itself. Users will be able to tap to refocus, drag to shift perspective, and twist to adjust aperture — all on the rear LCD. The Illum 2.0 update is said to make autofocus 3x faster, too.

“A big part of light-field photography is composing in 3D and knowing where things are in your scene,” Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal told Mashable. “This update makes it easier to figure out what you’re capturing.”

The real action, however, is in Lytro’s revamp of its desktop software: Now users will be able to create animations of 3D photos (in H264 format) that are compatible with VR headsets like Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR. Since Lytro’s cameras capture the direction of light entering the lens, it was always possible to create 3D pics from the images; now users can make them specifically for VR products.

Lytro camera owners will also finally be able to adjust their images with the gold standard of photo editors: Adobe Photoshop. Thanks to a Photoshop plug-in that accompanies the software update, users will be able to import photos, make edits and export them back into to Lytro app for sharing.

The new desktop client can also export photos for lenticular printing, which users can then take to a specialized printer to create hologram prints — photos where the image changes based on the angle they’re viewed at.

How Lytro’s desktop software creates images for VR headsets. Image: Lytro

Today’s updates mark the first real step into VR for the struggling company. Lytro generated a huge amount of interest when it first unveiled its “living pictures” — photos a viewer could refocus with a single click — but its cameras failed to catch on. Light-field photos require very large files, third-party support for them is virtually nonexistent, and smartphones have done a decent job of replicating Lytro’s signature refocusing trick with software.

After its second-generation Illum camera got mixed reviews, the company announced a hard pivot into the exploding field of VR. Given that Lytro chose to update only the Illum and not its first-generation camera, it’s apparent Lytro is centering its new strategy on serious content creators and not casual consumers.

To that end, Rosenthal said Lytro was working on “a number of product announcements,” both software and hardware, that are scheduled to debut the year. Whatever those products are, one of them is certain to address the biggest hole in Lytro’s current lineup: The ability to capture video.

“Think crazy high-resolution, very high frame rates, and a set of editing capabilities that will take the VR world to a level it hasn’t seen before,” teases Rosenthal.

Until then, Lytro users can get their virtual feet wet with today’s updates.

Source: Mashable Tech Lytro sprinkles some VR magic on its flagship camera and software

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