Lytro Teardown Shows Potential Wireless Capability, Smallish Sensor

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It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Lytro (other than nearly grabbing a Crunchie (I voted for them)), the camera where you shoot now and focus later. And the latest news comes not from the company itself, but from the FCC, which just today published the internal photos from its investigation of the device.

There’s nothing fabulously surprising, but Wireless Goodness points out that the chip pictured, a Marvell Avastar 88W8787, has Bluetooth and wi-fi capabilities. Companies don’t generally include capabilities in hardware they don’t expect to use; it drives up the cost of the device and feeds speculation like this article. Lytro hasn’t announced wireless syncing or updating, and the user manual makes no mention of it, so there’s no way to be sure. Lytro has not returned an email on the subject.

(Update: Lytro says: “The initial Lytro camera is not Wi-Fi enabled. Connectivity is important to us, and we’re working on it.” Could mean anything.)

Also pictured is the sensor, which is rather small; I estimate it to be about 6.5×4.5 millimeters. That’s a little larger than an iPhone sensor (1/3.2″) and a little smaller than most point and shoots (1/2.3″). Here’s a little diagram I whipped up to give you an idea:

Update: new diagram; the old one was off by quite a bit. (Thanks, Richard)

So: small, but in good company. Note that sensor size isn’t everything, and at any rate the Lytro isn’t a traditional sensor at all. Traditional spatial resolution, all-important in a normal camera, apparently isn’t quite as necessary here. The assembly is orientated around capturing megarays, not megapixels. And the size and true dimensions of the final image are still not quite clear, so we’ll leave that alone for now.

Lastly, worth noting is the interesting style of construction; the non-traditional form factor of the Lytro makes for a fun engineering challenge, no doubt: the compact square prism shape prevents anything but the tiniest of PCBs and makes wiring difficult. Kudos to their hardware engineering team for taking on the challenge and (presumably) making it work.

You can read the rest of the Lytro FCC inspection info here (the internal photos are the only new information since November).