4. THE LYTRO CAMERA
The Lytro camera solves the age-old problem of unfocused photos. Since its inception, many competitors have been mimicking the technology onto their own products.
The inventor : Ren Ng.
What it is: Lytro is a plenoptic camera, which lets users adjust the focus of a photograph after the fact thanks to an array of micro-lenses over the camera’s sensor.
How did it happen? Ng was doing theoretical research at Stanford University in light fields at the time he tried to photograph his friend’s daughter. After sitting in on a research meeting discussing the design of a light field camera (which was formerly composed of an array of about a hundred digital cameras attached to a supercomputer when the technology was first introduced in the 90s), he thought to himself, “That sounds really cool, but that’s not going to be very practical.”
So Ng was prompted to switch his emphasis to cameras, specifically how he could shrink light field technology down into a commercial-size package. He spent time studying optics and working with electrical and mechanical engineering professors to put the camera together, since as a computer science student, he didn’t have that training.
After getting his Ph.D. (and receiving honors like the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award in the process), Ng set out to put his research to use by starting a company that would produce light field cameras that everyone could enjoy.
Lytro's camera technology enables a user to change the focus of a picture after it has been taken.
The Lytro sensor’s sensitivity to light also makes it possible to take photos in very low-light conditions without the need of a flash. It also makes it possible to take 3D-like photographs with only a single lens, and without the need for glasses to see the immersive effects.
“Lytro’s breakthrough technology will make conventional digital cameras obsolete,” says Lytro investor and well-known venture capitalist Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz. “It has to be seen to be believed.”