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Lytro Raises $60 Million for Its Light Field Camera, Announces First VR Project With Chris Milk’s Within

Light field camera maker Lytro has raised a $60 million Series D round of funding, and the company is also getting closer to actually show consumers what its technology can do. Lytro announced on Wednesday that its Immerge VR camera was recently used by Chris Milk’s Within to shoot a first project, which is currently in post-production.

Lytro sets itself apart from other VR camera makers by relying on light field capture, which in layman’s terms means that it records all of the rays of light within a certain space as they bounce around in all directions. Lytro first announced its Immerge light field camera for virtual reality filmmakers at the end of 2015, and demonstrated some first footage shot by the camera to industry insiders last August.

During that time Lytro actually completely redesigned its camera, which was initially thought to be a spherical array of lenses. Now Immerge is using a planar array of lenses that is being rotated to film the entire 360-degree environment. Lytro’s servers then get busy to reconstruct the full light field volume for a 3D volumetric virtual reality experience.

Footage recorded with such a camera can be used with high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, and allow viewers to lean into a scene, look around objects and change their own vantage point — something that’s not possible with traditional 360-degree video footage.

However, these effects were still quite subtle when Lytro showedd off its demo footage last year. The big question will be how the technology is going to change stories told in VR — and to explore this, Lytro has teamed up with Chris Milk’s Within for a project that is expected to premiere in the second quarter of this year.

Lytro is also looking to expand its market, and target studios in Asia as potential customers for its camera, which is where the new fundraise comes in. The new $60 million Series D was led by Blue Pool Capital, but investors also include Singapore-based EDBI, Huayi Media and Foxconn Technology Group, among others.

“We believe that Asia in general and China in particular represent hugely important markets for VR and cinematic
content over the next five years,” said Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal in a statement. “A key goal of this capital raise was to assemble a group of trusted capital partners to help us best understand and navigate this new market.”

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