Ina Fried

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Surprise: Lytro Has Hidden Wi-Fi Capability, Now Can Connect to the iPhone

One of the benefits of Lytro’s “living pictures” is that they get better over time.

Already since launch, Lytro has added several features, including the ability to add filters and create a sense of motion. There is also enough information in its special light-field files to create a full 3-D image, something the company will likely enable down the road.

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It turns out that Lytro’s camera itself has been hiding some extra capabilities. Lytro is announcing today that its camera actually has Wi-Fi built in, which the company is now unlocking to allow the camera to wirelessly connect to an iPhone for uploading and sharing pictures on the fly.

Through a new free app for the iPhone — and a firmware update to the camera — Lytro owners can connect via Wi-Fi to view their pictures and share them online. The camera shows up as a Wi-Fi network to which the iPhone can connect for the purpose of sharing photos. (As a result, the iPhone can’t simultaneously use Wi-Fi to both connect to the camera and to an Internet hotspot.)

The move gives camera owners a way to share pictures on the go, removing the necessity of first connecting the camera back to a computer. What’s being sent is a compressed version of the full light-field image, with each file using about five megabytes of space, as opposed to the uncompressed file, which uses about 16MB. It’s a tradeoff of quality versus file size and upload speed.

“We’ve opted for a nice balance,” said Eric Cheng, Lytro’s director of photography.

Lytro also hopes to build more community, including a way in the iPhone app to discover and view popular images from other camera owners.

With the iPhone app, Lytro is starting to shift some of the processing work to the cloud, rather than relying on its Mac and PC apps to do the heavy lifting.

It is also finally letting camera owners share beyond the Lytro embedded player. Owners now have an option to create an animated GIF file of either an image being refocused or undergoing a 3-D-like parallax effect, which Lytro calls “perspective shift.” (Lytro has actually had this under its hat for a while, too, creating this custom animated GIF after the camera’s onstage demo at AsiaD.)

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An Android app is on the road map, too, though Cheng didn’t have a specific time frame.

As for other surprises the Lytro camera might be hiding, it also has a yet-to-be-utilized Bluetooth chip, Cheng confirmed.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google