US-based Lytro raised US$60 mil Series D, with EDBI among new investors

  • Sees potential in the AR/VR and cinematography industries
  • Looking to expand its presence in Asia

US-based Lytro raised US$60 mil Series D, with EDBI among new investors

SINGAPORE-based EDBI, which is the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board, announced that it has invested in US-based Lytro in a Series D funding round led by Blue Pool Capital.

The Series D funding round saw Lytro raised US$60 million. Among notable new investors include China's Huayi Media, Starwood Capital chairman and chief executive officer barry Sternlicht, as well as EDBI. They will join existing major investors including Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, GSV, North Bridge and Qualcomm -- who also took part in the Series D funding round.

“EDBI is pleased to be working with vanguard technology companies like Lytro to create and commercialise sophisticated next generation immersive digital media solutions in Singapore for the region and the world,” said EDBI CEO and president Chu Swee Yeok .

“Being the core enabling technology provider for creating captivating content, Lytro’s presence in Singapore will help strengthen capabilities in revolutionary Light Field capture technology in a rapidly growing field of AR/VR.”

Lytro background

Lytro, founded by executive chairman Ren Ng in 2006, develops Light Field technologies. In 2012, the company released its first generation imaging platform featuring the world's first consumer Light Field camera. 

In 2014,  the second-generation imaging platform was released featuring the Lytro ILLUM, Lytro Desktop, Lytro iOS Mobile Application and the Lytro Development Kit, empowering organizations beyond the domain of photography to harness the full potential of Light Field.

In 2015, Lytro announced its expansion into cinematography, virtual reality, and scientific and industrial applications, positioning itself as the hub of a new technology ecosystem that extends the transformational power of Light Field imaging across industries. The company also released significant updates for Lytro ILLUM and Lytro Power Tools, giving users direct access to explore Light Field via its existing products – an unprecedented move for a computational imaging company.  

Light Field camera captures information about the light field emanating from a scene -- which includes the intensity of the light in a scene as well as the direction that the light rays are traveling in space. In contrast, conventional camera only records light intensity.

Lytro camera captures light field differently by using a micro lens array plus one single large image sensor -- this allows the company to reduce the camera size and to increase image resolution at the same time.

The Lytro camera is able to capture 755 mega pixels at 300 frames per seconds (fps), which is significantly higher than the best in class digital cinematography cameras that are capable of delivering 12-15 mega pixels at up to 120fps. In addition to that, every frame captured by the Lytro camera is a full 3D image with full depth and light direction information on every pixel.

With the technology, it will allow film makers to make changes (such as changing the focus point - from the actress to the actor, or an object) during post production. Prior to this technology, such changes can only be made on set.

Changing the AR, VR and cinematography industries

Lytro believes that its technology will be useful for the AR/VR and cinematography industries. 

For AR/VR, Lytro solves the industry pain point of lacking immersive AR/VR content by providing a full 3D content capture and production system. 

AR and VR have the potential to become the next big computational platform as they are capable of reshaping existing ways we do things such as viewing a new home, interacting with a doctor and watching a football game. As the industry emerges from its nascent stage, one of the biggest bottlenecks for growth is the lack of high-quality immersive 3D content, especially those captured from the real world. Lytro’s light field camera is the first such camera capable of capturing true 3D content with parallax views around any objects in the captured space, which gives viewer the most natural viewing experience. Therefore, Lytro is well positioned to set the de-facto standard for AR/VR content production and to accelerate the speed of the market development.

For cinematography, Lytro's technologies unlock new creativities for visual effects (VFX) production by significantly reducing production cost and time.

Lytro’s game-changing light field imaging system is capable of addressing two large markets: digital cinematography, a US$6.8 billion dollar captive market considering only the camera systems (US$820 million in 2017 according to Frost Sullivan) and post-production software/services (US$6 billion in 2016 according to IBISWorld1) 2; and AR/VR, a nascent but exponentially growing new market with an estimated total addressable market of US$80 billion by 2025 according to Goldman Sachs.

Future plans

With the US$60 million raised, the company will now be looking at growing its presence in Asia and to further develop its Light Field technologies.

“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 Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Lytro. “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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