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Lytro raises $50 million to shift from still cameras to virtual reality

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Cutting jobs so it can hire in new areas

Lytro plans to bring its unique camera technology to video and virtual reality, giving the tech new opportunities to catch on. According to Recode, Lytro is raising money and cutting jobs in order to facilitate the transition. It's raised $50 million in funding in a round led by GSV Capital that bumps the company's valuation 5x. At the same time, Lytro is cutting 25 to 50 jobs from its current roster of 130. "We are going to have to make some cuts in some areas so we can staff up in some new ones," Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal tells Recode.

Lytro's tech is amazing, but is anyone buying it?

Rosenthal tells Recode that he believes Lytro's light-field technology is the "perfect solution" to recording video for virtual reality. Though the report doesn't elaborate, it's easy to guess why he believes that (aside from having a stake in Lytro): Lytro's light-field cameras capture far more information about a scene than a traditional camera, allowing a photographer to later have fine control over how the image is focused and even slightly adjust the angle it was taken at. Applying that tech to video could mean that filmmakers will be able to capture a world that better responds to the movements of someone wearing a virtual reality headset.

Of course, there are a lot of hurdles that Lytro will need to surmount to get there — including the fact that, in spite of being able to refocus images, its cameras still can't land a single truly sharp focus. That Lytro is laying off employees in order to invest in these new areas also suggests that its cameras haven't been particularly successful, which is no surprise considering their niche appeal. Lytro does plan to keep working on photography, though. According to Recode, it'll continue to bring new features to the Illum through software updates and a third light-field camera offering a higher resolution is planned for next year.