Toshiba Building A Lytro-Style Camera Sensor For Smartphones And Tablets, Planned For 2013 Launch

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Toshiba is intent on making a camera sensor for smartphones and tablets that borrows a trick from Lytro and allows users to select a focus area in their photos after having taken them. Not only that, but it’ll also allow users to put the whole photo in focus, as well as work with video shot on the device, potentially one-upping the pioneering Lytro camera in a form factor designed for use in everyday devices. Engadget spotted a report from Asahi Shimbun detailing Toshiba’s latest mobile imaging project.

The camera is designed to use 500,000 small lenses layered on top of the camera sensor, each of which grabs a slightly different image which is then combined into one via Toshiba’s software. The result is an image that users can tap to select focus, just like with those created by Lytro’s lightfield technology, but in a package small enough to fit in your pocket, rather than in Lytro’s elongated camera body. While Toshiba is already hard at work on the tech, and hopes to link up with smartphone and tablet OEMs to work it into their devices, don’t expect to see anything available commercially using this tech before at least the end of 2013. No word yet on whether it’ll allow users to shift perspective slightly in addition to focus, the way Lytro does since its latest update.

We recently covered a project that allows you to create Lytro-style pics using any camera that can manual focus while shooting digital video, but Toshiba’s tech promises to be even easier to use, and likely cheaper for most individuals, too. Many see Lytro itself as a tech demo, with the ultimate intent of the project being to get the tech into more wide-ranging consumer devices. In an interview with Gizmodo in October, Lytro founder Dr. Ren Ng mused on when we might see Lytro tech in smartphones, which reportedly still requires “extensive research and testing.” It looks like the race is on, however, with Toshiba eager to capitalize early.