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Forget auto-focus – what if Lytro someday gives smartphones infinite focus?

January 25, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka

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Lytro is a company that is gearing up to deliver a light field camera that can capture an image and then choose what to focus on later. The “shoot first, focus later” technology allows users to capture fields of light rather than a standard image like most cameras do. This can do away with blurry images and allow users to tap on an area to focus a picture after the light field has already been captured. Now what if you could do it with your phone? The Lytro camera isn’t even in the hand of consumers yet, but people were bound to wonder if the company’s technology could appear in smartphone. PCWorld’s Tim Moynihan posed that question to Lytro CEO Ren Ng, who responded with this statement:

…We’re very focused on building our own branded cameras and product line to sell in the marketplace…If we were to apply the technology in smartphones, that ecosystem is, of course, very complex, with some very large players there. It’s an industry that’s very different and driven based on operational excellence. For us to compete in there, we’d have to be a very different kind of company. So if we were to enter that space, it would definitely be through a partnership and a co-development of the technology, and ultimately some kind of licensing with the appropriate partner.

A Lytro-licensed camera won’t appear in any smartphone any time soon, but it would be a compelling feature to see in the future. Smartphones are becoming the most-used camera for the average consumer, but they often require multiple shots because of poor sensors and blurriness. And everyone has taken a picture with a smartphone that looked fine on a 4-inch screen but disappointing on a computer monitor.

Lytro would provide more leeway in correcting those focus issues. Of course, there’s the issue of costs. The debut Lytro camera retails for $399, which is more than half half of what the average smartphone costs at full retail price. How much more would it cost to utilize Lytro’s technology and engineer it in a small enough space to make room for all the other components found in a smartphone? The silver lining is that we probably have a long time before that becomes an issue, so maybe Lytro can partner with a phone maker who can keep the costs down and the quality up.

Visit Lytro.com to get more info on Lytro’s technology and take a look at how it works.

[PCWorld] via Engadget