Andreessen Horowitz's Best Idea: A Camera That Takes Infinite Pictures in One Shot

We asked the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to share with us one awesome idea that summed up their approach to innovation. They gave us the future of photography.

lytro2.png

lytro1.png

Credit: LYTRO

The problem: Photography is hard. You have to find your shot, frame it, focus the camera, and then click without messing up the first few steps. So what if you could take a picture and focus it later?

The idea: The two photos above are exactly the same. But in the top photo, the focus is on the golfer's head. In the bottom photo, it's on the flag pin. Here's the catch. It's not two photographs. It's one shot, and I picked the focus at Lytro.com.

Where great ideas really come from. A special report

Lytro photo technology collects all the information you need in a picture and then lets you edit the focus later. It's the epitome of Andreessen Horowitz's guiding principle that "software is eating the world."

You think of cameras as being a piece of hardware. Lytro thinks of cameras as being as much software as machinery. "The Lytro camera captures the color, intensity, and vector direction of every light ray in the scene, and processes this data using a powerful software called the light field engine," the firm explained to me. "Relying on software rather than hardware improves the camera's performance and creates new opportunities for Lytro to innovate on existing hardware."

The potential: "You inherently want to click on a Lytro image and discover things in it," Lytro founder Ren Ng told Rob Walker in a dispatch for The Atlantic this month. "Crafting that moment of discovery becomes a new kind of picture-taking." Walker continued:

Given that most photographic images these days are viewed onscreen and never printed (let alone framed), our expectations about what a photograph can be were bound to come into question. The Lytro camera is about to offer us one compelling answer.


>

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Business

Just In