Lytro, the company that pivoted to enterprise-focused applications of its light-field technology after leaving its commercial camera business, is shutting down after a reported $40M acquisition by Google. Now the company is apparently winding down its business by reducing its site to a support page covering its consumer hardware and software solutions.

Update (04/20/18): Lytro’s website, now a redirect to their support page, features a banner statement reiterating that the company “will not be taking on new productions or providing professional VR or cinematic services as [they] prepare to wind down the company.”

The original article detailing Google’s acquisition follows below.

Original article (03/28/18): As reported by The Verge, Lytro’s supposed acquisition by Google was intended primarily for the purposes of hiring a “large fraction” of the light-field company’s employees. A person familiar with the matter confirmed this to The Verge, saying that former team members bound for Google will be “spread across multiple divisions, and will not be continuing Lytro’s previous camera work.”

The Verge report maintains Google will also be acquiring some Lytro assets, although there aren’t any plans to integrate them into the company’s existing projects.

Photo by Road to VR

Tech Crunch reported earlier last week that Google was acquiring Lytro for between $25-40 million, although neither claims have been substantiated by Google or Lytro at this time. There’s still no word on what will happen to the company’s assets, which include Lytro’s 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology.

Founded in 2006, Lytro has garnered over $210 million in funding over its lifetime, the latest cash injection amounting to $60 million back in during its February 2017 Series D round. Starting out with its 2012-era, commercially-focused Lytro Light-field Camera, the company later went on to release a prosumer camera in 2015 called Lytro Illum, which at $1600 found little support outside of niches photography circles. Light field cameras capture more information about light than conventional cameras including intensity of light, and the direction that the light rays are traveling in space. Depth information can be inferred, creating volumetric images that allow for multiple view points – something that allows for a more natural viewing experience than standard monoscopic, or even stereoscopic 360 video.

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In 2015, the company pivoted and announced Immerge, their massive enterprise-focused light-field camera rig that captured volumetric video. The company later improved Immerge in their second iteration, which upped the field of view, and number of capturing elements, although it was still absolutely massive in size, and not nearing the 360-degree rig form-factor previously imagined. It was only a few months ago that Lytro acquired Limitless for $1 million, a company developing content and tools for creating cinematic VR experiences.

Despite its closure, Lytro is still confident that light-field technology will continue to shape the course of AR/VR. Here’s Lytro’s full statement below:

At Lytro, we believe that Light Field will continue to shape the course of Virtual and Augmented Reality, and we’re incredibly proud of the role we’ve been able to play in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We’ve uncovered challenges we never dreamed of and made breakthroughs at a seemingly impossible pace. We’ve had some spectacular successes, and built entire systems that no one thought possible. More importantly, we built a team that was singularly unified in its focus and unrivaled in its dedication. It has been an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the cinema and Virtual Reality communities, but starting today we will not be taking on new productions or providing professional services as we prepare to wind down the company. We’re excited to see what new opportunities the future brings for the Lytro team as we go our separate ways. We would like to thank the various communities that have supported us and hope that our paths will cross in the future.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Marcus Childs

    They will be missed. I hope they all have good fortune in whatever comes next for them.

  • Ian Shook

    When I first heard this I was super disappointed. So not only is Lytro being absorbed into Google for whom I have little confidence, but they’re also dissolving basically all the things Lytro was working on, like the Immerge, Lytro Volume Tracer, and the movie production pipeline they’re perfecting. It just doesn’t make any sense. Google released a light field demo on Steam 3 weeks ago and they’re using a light field camera similar to what the v1 of the immerge was 2+ years ago, and it crashes all the time. I don’t really want an updated streetview with their cameras, I want what Lytro started.

    • I’m very sad about this news as well. Lytro hardware was very promising

  • Lucidfeuer

    Terrible news. Lytro was on the edge of necessary lightfield technologies development, now they’re basically dead since it’s Google (would be the same with Microsoft of Facebook).

    Really a huge fucking shame, and all the patent-sucking and vaporwaring means lightfield capture will have to go another way to have a chance of existing.

    • Laurence Nairne

      But at least Google can continue to absorb talent into the mindless tech machine and dry out their enthusiasm. That has to count for something, right? Right?!

  • This is sad news. Lytro’s work was inspirational.

  • oompah

    It means this:
    soon you will see a Pixel phone
    with an array of 10×20 cameras at back
    and which no one else can do ’cause
    others wont have lytro tech
    Btw methinks 1 or 2 cameras
    is okeee for me

    • Firestorm185

      Id love to see a phone with tiny cameras all across the back instead of a metal-back. that would be phone to see. >w0

      • Guest

        Yeah but don’t fat-finger your picture. $210 million for less than $40 million sounds like some kind of deal, huh?

  • Nate Vander Plas

    Super disheartening to hear this. I’m still hopeful, though, that Google will share some of their tech they used for “Welcome to Light Fields.” Maybe at least a few Lytro employees will get hired on in whatever department spearheaded that project.

  • Ehm, it went directly to support just some hours after you posted that it shut down. I wasn’t even able to share its goodbye letters with my followers o_O

  • NooYawker

    This seems to be the fate of all companies. Be bought out by FB, MS, Google or Apple. Or sustain a questionable existence bleeding money.

  • Lawrence

    When I heard about the Lytro I was wlowed out of the water then I wanted so bad one Illum but it wa too expensive… forward in 2021 I got one like brand new with spare batteries and accesories even with the plastic on it for $100. I got lucky thanks God after all these years.