Ina Fried

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Lytro, the Astonishing Camera Start-Up, Celebrates Its Splashy Debut (Video)

Although they still have a lot of work to do to ship their first cameras later this year, the team from Lytro took time out Monday to celebrate their splashy debut.

The company, which for several years has been quietly building a new type of camera, revealed its technology this week. The Mountain View company is using an approach known as light-field imagery, which offers a number of advantages over traditional photography, most notably the ability to focus and refocus an image after it has been taken.

Guests at Lytro’s San Francisco art gallery launch event on Wednesday night had a chance to appear in their own light-field portraits, striking a pose alongside circus performers. The crowd featured many of those responsible for Lytro’s technology, including the Stanford professors that guided CEO Ren Ng’s early research, the company’s early funders and advisers, and the team that helped it pull off its splashy launch, which had Lytro featured all day Wednesday as the top tech story on Google News.

At the event, I had a chance to catch up with Ng, as well as some of the company’s early investors, including Andreessen Horowitz partner Ben Horowitz, Intuit founder Scott Cook and former Greylock partner Charles Chi, who is now the company’s full-time executive chairman.

Speaking to the crowd, Chi recalled his seemingly crazy decision, several years ago, to invest in a company with an academic at the helm and a bizarre business model. The positive response the company got to its launch, Chi said, showed that maybe it wasn’t that crazy after all.

“I wasn’t totally delirious all those years ago making that first investment,” Chi said.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik