Lytro, creator of an innovative photography technology, has unveiled its first development kit. Using a light field, Lytro's technology enables digital photos taken with a plenoptic, or light field, camera to be refocused after they have been taken, promising photographers the ability to create perfect photos with ease. There are also significant scientific and industrial applications for light field technology.
Lytro, which was founded in 2006 by a Stanford University researcher who developed a light field camera while doing his graduate work, manufactures its own cameras, but meeting the demand for its technology was proving challenging for the startup because of the wide range of applications its technology can serve.
So last week, Lytro released the Lytro Development Kit (LDK) so that third parties can work with the company's core technology. Pricing starts at $20,000 and the LDK comes with prototype hardware, such as sensors, lens and a focal plane shutter, as well as software, including an API for Python 2.7. Using the LDK's components, customers can perform light field capture, generate live and still images, and process images using Lytro's processing technology.
“Through the LDK, we’re able to open up the platform and technology in this way, so all these customers can really go after esoteric applications and spread the adoption and capabilities of the product,” Lytro's CEO, Jason Rosenthal, told WIRED. Early partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a division of the Department of Defense. The latter, for instance, is using Lytro's technology to improve its night vision systems.
Are development kits crucial for revolutionary technologies?
Lytro has no intention of abandoning its own efforts to manufacture light field cameras. The company has raised $90 million from investors and intends to get its technology into the hands of professionals and ultimately, the masses. But taking potentially revolutionary technologies to market can be very costly and time-consuming because there are typically many uses for revolutionary technologies.
That's why development kits are arguably so important for companies like Lytro. By giving select third parties, particularly those interested in niche applications, the ability to take a technology and run with it, innovative technology companies no longer have to ignore markets and give themselves the opportunity to expand their technology's footprint without sacrificing their focus.