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Lytro Eyes Opportunities Beyond Photography

The company says its new flavor of imaging could be used in a variety of other fields, such as microscopes and security gear.

Ina Fried

Imaging startup Lytro, best known for its cameras that allow photos to be endlessly refocused, says it is starting to explore opportunities beyond the traditional photography market, and it’s looking for partners.

The company is releasing the first part of what it calls a “Lytro Platform,” which will allow the company’s light-field technology to be used in other areas, such as government, medical imaging and security.

“This is us continuing to deliver on our long-term vision of enabling anything with a lens and a sensor to use light-field technology,” Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal said in an interview. He said that the Lytro developer kit is the company’s answer to the many requests it has gotten from companies in other imaging areas to use the company’s technology.

Among the first outside customers for the Lytro technology is NASA, which is considering a range of possible uses of light-field photography, including potentially sending such cameras into space on future interplanetary flights. Lytro is also working with several other companies and has seen interest in other areas, such as self-driving cars.

The startup has been lauded for its technology, but it remains a tiny niche in the photography hardware market — part of the challenge it has faced by going it alone in a market dominated by giants such as Canon and Nikon.

Lytro released its second-generation camera, the Illum, earlier this year. Late last year, the company raised $40 million in additional financing to pursue its efforts.

Rosenthal didn’t reveal its sales figures, but said the company has sold tens of thousands of Illum cameras. “It’s done phenomenal,” he said.

He was quick to add that Lytro remains primarily a camera company focused on changing traditional photography.

“We are hard-core and heads down on multiple successive generations of Lytro products,” he said.

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