Lytro made a name for itself a few years ago with its Light Field Digital Camera, which used mind-boggling technology to adjust the focus of an image after the picture was taken.
In just three years, the company has gone from making a tiny rectangular box camera to producing Immerge, a full, 360-degree multi-camera sphere that might just be the future of virtual reality filmmaking.
The Lytro Immerge is what the company calls "the world's first Light Field powered solution" for VR. The spherical camera rig is not entirely unlike GoPro's Odyssey or Nokia's OZO camera ball. Except this one has a lot more under the hood.
The Immerge rig has five different rings, each one containing what the company claims are "multiple hundreds of cameras and sensors." The rig uses a dense light filed array to capture the entire surrounding image in one shot instead of stitching together multiple shots.
In a promo video (below), Lytro explains that capturing thousands of points of light - not just where it comes from, but where it goes to - means that the resulting image appears more three-dimensional, like you could move around inside of it while still looking realistic.
Essential reading: Explained: How VR works
Imagine sitting on your couch and you look to the right and lean forward a bit to see what your cat is looking at. Most VR cameras capture a sort of 2D version of the room, which looks flat, even if you can move around in it.
The Immerge rig is designed to capture significantly more imaging data so that, in VR, you can lean forward, and the lighting around you will change in a realistic way, without the need of computer graphic overlays.
It actually captures so much data that Lytro's including a portable server with the rig that stores and processes up to one hour of video. The rig bundle also includes a video editing plug-in specifically designed for the data, which can be used with a number of programs such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro.
Thanks to the light field video playback engine, filmmakers will be able to produce videos that are compatible with high end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but that will also work with lower-end hardware for mobile devices, like Samsung's Gear VR or even Google Cardboard.
Of course, the Immerge rig is not being marketed to film hobbyists. The bundle will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy, and even renting the rig will cost a few thousand dollars per day. Hopefully, major movie companies will take an interest in this technology - Felix and Paul Studios are already fans. And, let's face it, we won't get VR Star Wars without cameras like this.