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Experience Design

Software Success Story: Lytro Light Field Camera

Marc Andreessen believes that “software is eating the world” – that companies thriving today are doing so with the competitive advantage they’ve developed through technology and software. While Lytro may not be dominating the photography industry yet, it is a frontrunner in the technology and software quickly developing in the world of photography.
Lytro is a small firm that is currently developing a Light Field Camera. What’s the difference between a light field camera and the cameras we shoot with today? Images created from a light field camera have the ability to be dynamically refocused after the photo has been taken; the software in the camera stores more data than a normal digital camera and makes it available for manipulation later. The software captures enough data to allow the user to shift the focus from a close subject to a distant subject, along with other features.
Keep in mind that the end result isn’t quite like these unrealistic CSI “zoom and enhance” scenes:

It’s rather more like this:

Notice that each frame focuses on a different individual (or two); each of these frames came from the same original photo. For a more interactive look at the experience of refocusing light field photos, check out Lytro’s photo gallery here. The gallery allows you to click on different sections in a picture to dynamically refocus the image. Lytro’s website offers this explanation of the science behind the camera:

By substituting powerful software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras, light field processing introduces new capabilities that were never before possible. Sophisticated algorithms use the full light field to unleash new ways to make and view pictures.
Relying on software rather than components can improve performance, from increased speed of picture taking to the potential for capturing better pictures in low light. It also creates new opportunities to innovate on camera lenses, controls and design.

Although Lytro’s camera is not yet publicly available, the technology seems poised to offer an increasingly interactive view of photography due to the software running behind the scenes. If you’re interested in learning more about the technology, check out PCWorld or Engadget.
Why I Don’t Watch CSI – YouTube
CSI Photo Enhancement – YouTube

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