Lytro started out as a small company trying to bring light field photography to the consumer market. The company soon attracted considerable investments and built two consumer cameras – the Lytro Light Field Camera and the Lytro Illum – which brought breakthrough features such as software refocus and synthetic aperture from lab-sized camera arrays to the hands of the end users. Then, however, the company made a major strategic turn, abandoned the consumer market, and realigned itself to focus (pun intended) on Virtual Reality solutions.
Every now and then, somebody comes up with a radically new way to improve technology and do something different. One such example is the Flexible Sheet Camera that researchers at the Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics at Columbia University have developed. Rather than a little handheld box with a single lens and some sort of zoom optics, this super-thin concept camera lets you adjust the field of view by simply bending it:
Light field technology that’s currently available, like the Lytro Illum or Raytrix’ industrial light field cameras, is largely based on microlens arrays which allow the flat imaging sensor to infer the direction of light rays in addition to their colour and intensity. While Raytrix has managed to ramp up spatial resolution to 25% of the actual sensor resolution by way of a customised, heterogeneous microlens array, effective resolution is still a limitation of today’s light field cameras.
Now, researchers at the Nanoelectronics and Nanophotonics Lab, University of Michigan, have announced working on a different approach that would allow capturing complete light fields at full sensor resolution. Rather than microlenses in front of a standard imaging sensor, the team around Zhaohui Zhong are developing a new sensor consisting of several transparent light detectors based on graphene, a material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms. Continue reading
Light field imaging has captured the mind of many technology enthusiasts and imaging pioneers, and there have been rumours of light field cameras in future iPhones or Android smartphones.
Now a new patent has surfaced that shows Apple is still interested in light field cameras. The twist is, the proposed “plenoptic” (a.k.a. light field) camera system is intended to aid robots in the manufacturing process. Continue reading
Almost as soon as the original Lytro camera was released, enthusiasts tried to find an easy way to combine light field imaging with microscopes. However, due to the optical characteristics of a microscope (especially the strong f-number mismatch), those attempts had only limited success.
In a recent publication, Loïs Mignard-Debise and Ivo Ihrke from INRIA Bordeaux in France presented the findings of their experiments to use off-the-shelf hardware (i.e. a first-generation lytro camera and camera lenses or microscope objectives) for a working light field microscope. Continue reading