Staff cuts on the way

Lytro moving into virtual reality, video

Photography startup Lytro has confirmed it raised $50 million in funding, but also plans to cut between 25 and 50 employees.

“We are going to have to make some cuts in some areas so we can staff up in some new ones,” CEO Jason Rosenthal told Re/code. “$50 million is a nice big number, but it is not unlimited. We had to make some pretty tough decisions.”

Those new areas include video and virtual reality. With headsets from Oculus, Valve and Sony on the way, developers are gearing up for an explosion in interest in the new medium. But there are few tools available to consumers to create their own content.

Last week I wrote about 360-degree cameras, which can be used to shoot photos and video for virtual reality. Inexpensive options are still in the early stages, and almost exclusively built by fledgling startups. Lytro has been shipping its unusual light-field cameras, which allow you to refocus a picture after you take it, for three years now.

A 360 degree image taken with Giroptic's camera.
A 360 degree, non-3D image taken with Giroptic’s camera.

Lytro’s light-field cameras could be an inexpensive solution to capturing stereoscopic images — 3D scenes made by grabbing and combining two pictures from slightly different angles. Lots of cameras can take a 360-degree panorama, but they are just stitching together series of images each taken from a single angle. The resulting image doesn’t appear to be three-dimensional. That takes away part of the magical feeling of presence virtual reality can provide.

Lytro’s PR team told me the company isn’t releasing details on Lytro VR quite yet, but it should have some developments in the near future.

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