Google’s Acquisition of Lytro goes Beyond VR

The promise of immersive digital experiences has always been the ability to transport an individual to a new place, a new experience, a new reality. However, due to hardware and software constraints, that promise has thus far fallen short of expectation. Google understands that in order to reach those goals, there needs to be a way to effectively capture the physical world with immense detail – and also have the ability to share those images in an immersive environment.


Enter light field imaging. A conventional camera can capture the intensity of light coming from a scene, resulting in 2D images, with realistic shadows. A light-field camera is capable of capturing not only the intensity of light, but also the direction that those light rays are traveling in space. Done correctly, these images allow for hyper-realistic showcases of the real world. Knowing this, it makes sense that Google would then acquire light-field camera company Lytro, and it’s various patents/proprietary information. An early example of how these cameras will be used can be found in Googles new VR app, Welcome to Light Fields.

However, realistic image capturing goes well beyond virtual reality for the tech-behemoth. While the industry continues to mature, and the price & accessibility of the hardware continues to drop, look for Google to deploy this technology in a few different ways. Automotive mapping will allow for more precise self driving software and new mobile cameras will make way for contextually relevant experiences, as they allow for high quality data collection of the real world. The more real-time, high fidelity information that Google is able to ingest around a place or scene, the better they’ll be able to enhance consumers understanding of the world around them.


For marketers, there are deeper implications to this trend than simply being able to create compelling immersive experiences for their consumers. Sure, that’s important, and will increasingly bring new and fun ways to interact with a target market, but there’s an underlying trend here as well. As these light-field cameras make their way onto individual devices, consumers will be empowered to understand the world around them in ways not possible today.

Google Lens will deliver unprecedented contextually relevant information about people, places, and things. The friction between discovery and purchase will further decrease, and the search paradigm will continually shift from text based to visual. Computer vision and AI algorithms will learn more and more about the world around us, allowing for more seamless interactions with augmented reality and our pervasive digital assistants.

Technology is on course to eventually blend into the background, becoming more and more predictive rather than reactive – only showing itself when needed. The building blocks to that reality is the ability to fully understand the physical world. Simply put, that future starts with better cameras.

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