Lytro goes mobile, now controllable from iOS

Our smartphones can do so much these days. They can order pizza, check our bank balance, and even control cameras from afar. One of the most advanced cameras in the world is joining in with that last one, with the refocusing technology of the Lytro now able to be controlled from an iPhone.

Camera geeks and photo enthusiasts are still coming to grips with what the Lytro can do: it’s a camera that doesn’t just take a snapshot in two dimensions, but rather a section of space and time, capturing the entire “light-field” and allowing you to decide on the focus spot later on.

We checked it out when it first hit Australia and last year, and while the design of the box was a little awkward, the technology inside is still very impressive, melting brains with its ability to create interactive photography that up until now has only really worked on web browsers.

That changes from today with the release of an iOS app, a piece of software that makes it possible for any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch owner to explore publicly available photo-streams and see the refocusing world that Lytro has created.

“Mobile sharing of photos is universal and Lytro Mobile now offers the kind of desktop-free convenience people are accustomed to having,” said Lytro’s Founder Ren Ng.

“We have taken a complex technology and made it accessible through an app that is easy to use for both sharing and viewing light field pictures.”

That’s not all the app can do. There’s more, and it’s actually quite sneaky, but very cool, nonetheless.

With a new firmware update being rolled out across the Lytro desktop software, a WiFi chip inside each and every Lytro – even the ones released in the initial batch Australia didn’t receive – will be switched on, enabling iOS devices to connect to the Lytro using the wireless connection.

This local connection will act in a similar way to other cameras sporting the direct connect WiFi modes, making it possible for images to be sent straight to Facebook, shared on other social networks, and even converted to an animated GIF with the choice of refocus points or perspective shift (a slight shift in dimensionality emulating the look of 3D while staring at a 2D screen) acting as the animation.

That’s a pretty decent set of choices, and Lytro is making this possible by letting the iOS device decode part of the light-field image, and then having its servers decode the rest, saving your iDevice from what could be too much processing.

The other cool feature brought with the activation of the WiFi chip is that an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch will become a remote viewfinder for the Lytro, making it easy to capture images straight from an Apple phone or tablet, even while someone else is holding the Lytro.

Something missing from this feature addition is support for other platforms, and while iOS is listed as the only operating system these features work on, Lytro’s Eric Cheng told us this week that “an Android app is planned” and while Lytro doesn’t have timing, “it is definitely in the works.”

Until then, it’s iOS only, with the Lytro app appearing on Apple’s App Store right now, and the WiFi activating firmware rolling out right now. If you own a Lytro, it might be time for that update.