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Mon, Aug 15 2011 18:24:03 UTC

Interview with the founder of Lytro

Today we have an interview with the Founder and CEO of Lytro, a new camera technology that allows pictures taken to be refocused endlessly.

Could you describe who you are and your role in the Lytro team?

I am the Founder and CEO of Lytro. I purchased my first DSLR camera and saw the potential to apply light field technology, a subject area I studied at Stanford, to consumer digital cameras. As a result, I decided to apply and extend my theoretical work by creating light field cameras that are marketable to everyone. I hold a Ph.D. in computer science and a B.S. in mathematical and computational science from Stanford University.

Can you briefly describe Lytro and what the camera does?

Lytro has created a first of its kind camera that utilizes light field technology to capture an entire light field. The simple definition of the light field is: all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space.

A light field camera provides capabilities that are not available in conventional cameras today. These capabilities include:

- Focus after the fact: OutCast - please use the standard messaging about focus after the fact.

- Unparalleled speed: This camera is fast. Since the camera doesn't focus before a photo is taken, you don't miss important moments due to autofocus shutter lag.

- Living pictures: When shared online, both the photographer and viewer can play with Lytro pictures, including changing the focus.

What is revolutionary about Lytro compared with regular cameras out there?

Lytro is the first company to take light field technology out of the lab - creating a new camera category that will forever change how people take and experience pictures. By capturing the full light field, Lytro camera users are able to refocus the image after it is taken.

How did you get the idea of producing such a device?

When using my DSLR to take photos of a friend's five-year-old daughter, I quickly became acutely aware of the pain points of today's cameras - a shutter that's too slow to capture a moment, a lens that focuses on the wrong point in a scene, etc. I decided to apply what I knew about the light field to attempt to miniaturize light field photography technology into something that would no longer require 100 computers in a room tethered to a supercomputer but rather a camera that could fit into your pocket and was fast, simple and magical to use.

Could you talk about how the camera works inside, how it produces such images?

The light field is a core concept in imaging science, representing fundamentally more powerful data than in regular photographs. The light field fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space - it's all the light rays in a scene. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field.

Recording light fields requires an innovative, entirely new kind of sensor called a light field sensor. The light field sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light. This directional information is completely lost with traditional camera sensors, which simply add up all the light rays and record them as a single amount of light.

By substituting powerful software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras, light field processing introduces new capabilities that were never before possible. Sophisticated algorithms use the full light field to unleash new ways to make and view pictures.

Relying on software rather than components can improve performance, from increased speed of picture taking to the potential for capturing better pictures in low light. It also creates new opportunities to innovate on camera lenses, controls and design.

The camera allows images to be 'focused later', is that done while still in the camera or in software?

Lytro living pictures include the Lytro light field engine wherever they are viewed - whether on a PC, mobile or on the Web.

The Lytro camera will capture the full light field with its innovative light field sensor. Once captured, this massive amount of information is processed with a light field engine. That engine lives on the camera so the photographer can focus the picture after the fact on the camera. The engine also lives on the desktop and travels with every picture so anyone on nearly any device can interact with the pictures.

Currently you're taking reservations, how much interest have you been seeing?

There is a lot of excitement about the camera.

Can you give us an idea of when more details will be available and when the camera will be ready?

The camera will be available later this year.

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