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Lytro takes a giant leap into video with the Immerge VR video cam

Jackie Dove | Nov. 6, 2015
Lytro's new video camera uses light field tech to capture and blend realistic, immersive live action video and computer graphics.

lytro immerge
Lytro Immerge is designed to capture a "spherical light field volume" consisting of five slices of dense light field arrays inside of a rig. Credit: Lytro

Remember those nifty Lytro cameras that used light field technology to create cool, variable focus images? It turns out, the first-generation, kaleidoscope-shaped Lytro shooter and the more traditional looking camera-like Illum were just the beginning.

On Thursday, Lytro announced it has jumped into the video arena with Immerge, a video camera that uses light field tech to capture and blend realistic, immersive live action video and computer graphics.

lytro immerge closeup 
Credit: Lytro

“Immerge builds on the technical achievements that were unlocked by Illum and moves the technology further into live action video and a 360 virtual space,” Ariel Braunstein, chief product officer at Lytro, told Macworld.

This is a natural evolution for Lytro. Back last summer, the company released a massive update to Illum—a combination firmware and desktop upgrade that positioned the camera as a content creator for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR,
 Microsoft Hololens, and HTC Vive.

And now, with the help of a Lytro software plug-in, Immerge output can be edited on your Mac.

Still a prototype

Immerge, currently still in the prototype stage, targets the pro movie-making crowd. It will be released to creative storytellers in the first quarter of 2016, the company said.

The main point of entry for editing is a cross-platform compositing and visual effects package from Foundry called Nuke for which Lytro has created a plug-in.

“We chose not to reinvent the editing environment,” Braunstein said. “Nuke is a post production visual effects standard. Editors can edit every pixel, mix it with computer graphics, and apply visual effects.”

While AR and VR have typically been used to create 3D gaming environments, one breakthrough for Immerge is its capability for realistic and immersive output for dramas and documentaries. This would significantly broaden the target viewing audience as well as creative possibilities for moviemakers.

Immerge is designed to capture once and play back on any device. While it’s optimized for high-end headsets, it also works with mobile phones as the screen for a VR device, such as Google’s Cardboard or other simple, low-cost headsets that include only optics.

Rectifying 2D issues

Immerge was created to combine live action content with computer graphics, but first it had to solve the 2D problem. “A lot of the technologies available today are cobbled together from 2D and don’t work well in a 3D environment,” Braunstein said. “2D tech provides a compromised sense of presence—meaning you know where you are.”


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