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making their own stereographs from Lytro images. They’d shift the perspective all the way to the left, take a screen shot, shift it all the way to the right, take a second screen shot, and then juxtapose that pair of images in a stereoscope.
Cheng says Lytro engineers have done the same thing using software in their lab, and have visualized the results using 3-D displays. The next logical step, he says, would be to build a version of the Lytro viewer that works on 3-D televisions. “The 3-D TV manufacturers have a content scarcity, so those are all very interesting things we are exploring,” he says.
Beyond that, Lytro is thinking about cameras with larger sensors that could capture more information, which would increase both the resolution of the 4-D light field and the degree of perspective shift that’s possible. To get slightly technical, the “shiftability” of a Lytro image is a function of the width of the image sensor; this baseline is small in the first-generation Lytro device because the camera itself is small and has a fixed-aperture, f/2 lens. But that won’t be true forever. “When the sensor is bigger, we can start to do really compelling 3-D content,” Cheng says.
Photography used to be all about lenses and film. Then it was about lenses and electronic sensors. Lytro is changing the game again. As Cheng and his colleagues continue to improve their software and hardware, get ready to abandon all your old ideas about how a static image should behave.
“One of the things we like to say, internally, is that we are moving the power of photography from optics to computation,” Cheng says. “And the very interesting thing about the light field is that 3-D is a byproduct. We get it without having to put much effort into it. So when the public really demands 3-D content, we will be ready for it.”
Here’s a Lytro video about Perspective Shift, featuring Eric Cheng.