Lytro CEO channels Elon Musk, promises ‘breakthrough’ products akin to a Tesla S

Lytro Electric Blue

As a startup builds up its business, it will most likely go through a few rounds of growing pains. Lytro, the company behind the breakthrough light-field camera, is exhibiting some of those teething issues. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the company has laid off “a ‘small’ number of employees in areas like operations and shipping” earlier this year. No employees in product and engineering were affected. Despite the news, Lytro is promising new “breakthrough” products in 2014.

The Chronicle learned of the layoffs when it spoke with new CEO Jason Rosenthal, who took over the seven-year-old company from founder and Executive Chairman Ren Ng, who stepped down as CEO this past June to work on product development. The company hasn’t grown its staff considerably (it has 85 employees) and there haven’t been any major product announcements since the Lytro camera started shipping last year, aside from a few firmware updates. Despite securing a $50 million investment from venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, industry sources say the camera isn’t selling well, either, according to the Chronicle.

But Rosenthal says the company is working on new “breakthrough” products that will debut in 2014. Rosenthal, who has worked at Netscape, AOL, Ning, and investment firm Silver Lake, is bringing his business expertise to spearhead the company. “Rosenthal batted away any suggestions of broader financial issues at Lytro and stressed that the company’s upcoming products have better odds of whetting consumer appetites,” according to the Chronicle. Rosenthal said the long-term vision is to become “the new software and hardware stack for everything with a lens and sensor. That’s still cameras, video cameras, medical and industrial imaging, smartphones, the entire imaging ecosystem.”

“We’re working on what we think will be our Model S,” Rosenthal told the Chronicle, in reference to the all-electric vehicle. Rosenthal compared the first-gen Lytro camera to the Tesla Roadster, which had limited production in order to have its kinks worked out before building a full-production model.  “We have a packed product roadmap for next year, we’ll introduce multiple what I think are just breakthrough products. I’m super excited and the world will be as well.”

But exactly what those products are remains a secret, although it will be imaging related and beyond consumer-oriented products, at various price points. A partner at Andreessen Horowitz hinted that the product would include pro-level features. “Rosenthal said they’ll be able to deliver their advances relatively cheaply, because they’re making strides in software that were once only possible with expensive hardware,” the Chronicle wrote. 

As we recently said, despite the accolades the Lytro has garnered – including our “camera of the year” – we also thought the camera has become somewhat of a one-trick pony, leading us to wonder what Lytro could deliver next. Technologies similar to Lytro’s are purportedly making their way into smartphones soon, which is a potential problem as Lytro’s camera is too expensive for the general consumer, making cheaper smartphones more attractive. If Lytro is to become a success – whether in the consumer or enterprise space – it’d need to deliver some gangbuster products soon, but 2014 could prove too late.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Mobile

C you soon? Rumors swirl of a USB-C port on 2019 iPhones

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…
Photography

Nikon A1000, B600 pack big zooms into compact, budget-friendly cameras

The new Nikon Coolpix A1000 packs in a 35x zoom lens, 4K video, and an optical viewfinder, while Nikon's B600 brings a 60x zoom lens to the table. The cameras are modest updates to Nikon's budget-friendly zoom models.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.