Lytro Sells to Google for a Discounted $40 Million

Lytro promised to revolutionize cinema, but after raising a reported $200 million, the start-up sells to Google for only $40 million.

With their various applications of light-field image capture, Lytro has developed some of the most exciting technology of the past several years.

The company's release at NAB 2016—pivoting toward professional studio grade equipment for high-end cinematic image capture—was one of No Film School's most popular videos of all time. The company has kept going strong, releasing a new Immerge capture platform a mere four months ago, even inspiring competitors with the Light L16 camera.

Despite all of its success, (and despite raising $200 million in venture financing at a $370 million valuation), news has broken from TechCrunch that the company has sold to Google for $40 million.

Lytro CinemaCredit: Lytro

As the rumored estimate currently stands, $40 million is on the high end of the spectrum, with some reports noting the sale price as being as low as $25 million. Not all of the employees will be continuing on to Google either, indicating that Google is mostly interested in the patents that Lytro has developed for light-field capture.

Light-field is the process of using multiple cameras to simultaneously capture many views of the same scene. This allows for creative reframing and refocusing during post-production. While the technology itself is fascinating, it hasn't gained traction as either a consumer tool or a professional tool; despite being two years old, there has yet to be a list of Hollywood blockbusters using the tech, and that's often a red flag.

With Google's focus being directed toward consumers, this might mean a pivot back to a mass market product with technology that we could eventually get our hands on.

Even 3D technology, which ultimately fizzled, had many major projects trying the tech and bragging loudly as products rolled out. Without a big marquee project, it seems like Lytro ran out of steam, selling off what it could.

With Google's focus being directed toward consumers, this might mean a pivot back to a mass market product with technology that we could eventually get our hands on. It remains to be seen how long that might take.

Check out TechCrunch's reporting for more information.     

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1 Comment

It's sad to see a company fold - particularly as consumers (professional and personal). I played with their early cameras at a convention and was stoked about them until I realized the image resolution wouldn't even produce a large screen crisp image.
Most creatives don't need the new 40 megapixels, but when your cell phone is in the 12+MP range it's hard to bring a dedicated device with a fraction of the resolution with added cost and another device to carry, charge, and get photos off of and on to the places people can see the images.
If they had a super simple pairing mode to control everything from your cell phone - then perhaps it'd be a different story but it was always clunky (at least early on).
It's interesting seeing the progress in even cell phones with dual lenses as they try to make "portrait mode" that blurs the background.

March 23, 2018 at 10:42AM

Travis Johansen - Minneapolis
Director of Photography & Producer