A Silicon Valley startup named Lytro is introducing a revolutionary camera that takes living pictures, or pictures presented as interactive files.

The main benefit Lytro is touting right now is their ability to allow users to refocus and interact with the picture after it's taken. A sample interactive picture is below. Double click to zoom in and single click to focus on any area in the picture.


This technology allows instantaneous photography (no need to focus and no shutter lag) and eliminates out-of-focus pictures forever, which are significant advancements already.

However, that's only the beginning of possibilities. Lytro has already mentioned the ability to view 3D pictures (with 3D glasses). It also said the digital (as opposed to component) nature of the camera creates new opportunities to innovate on camera lenses, controls and design.

The technology behind the camera is a set of lenses that distinguishes and captures the individual light rays in a light field. Traditional cameras, contrastingly, add up the light rays and record them as a single amount of light. An illustration of the technology is below. To read the research paper behind this science, click here.

Once the light rays are recorded, the images then reconstructed from them. This is where the world of possibilities begins.

The light field data can potentially be reconstructed and projected as a hologram with the proper hardware and software.

Moreover, the control of individual light rays potentially affords users a great degree of ability to manipulate pictures. A crude example, done with Microsoft Paint, illustrates this example.