UC Davis iPhone tweak turns camera into disease spotting microscope

iphone 4 mod via cnetA new tweak for the iPhone by researchers from the University of California transforms the five-megapixel camera on the Smartphone into a powerful microscope capable of detecting blood diseases. The best part? The enhancement cost the researchers less than $50.

UC Davis physicist Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu and his team of researchers created the smartphone microscope by combining the camera with a 1-millimeter-diamter ball lens which they embedded in a rubber sheet and taped onto the iPhone’s camera. The ball lens, at 5x magnification, has the same power as a toy magnifying glass, but boosts the smartphone’s ability enough to deal with features on the level of 1.5 microns—small enough to identify certain blood cells.

The Optical Society explains that this is possible for two reasons: “First, ball lenses excel at gathering light, which determines resolution. Second, the camera’s semiconductor sensor consists of millions of light-capturing cells. Each cell is only about 1.7 microns across…enough to capture precisely the tiny high-resolution image that comes through the ball lens.”

The Davis team’s discovery isn’t the first smartphone-microscope development, but Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu says that simplicity and low-cost were his goals. Initially, the team tried using drops of water on the camera’s lens the water kept drying. The ball lens they eventually used cost $30-40, but the price could be lowered if mass-produced.iphone = bottom 3 slides

The iPhone microscope still bows to high-priced laboratory options as you can see in the pollen and plant stem slides. The iPhone 4 microscope is on the bottom, and a commercial-grade microscope took the top images.   But Wachsmann-Hogiu believes the device would be valuable in rural areas with little access to lab equipment. The camera is good enough to detect disorders such as iron deficiency anemia or the banana-shaped blood cells of sickle-cell. Field workers would put blood on a slide, take a picture with the iPhone and send it out for analysis.

The researchers are already thinking of ways to tweak the tweak, such as adding larger lenses to detect skin diseases and creating software for instant feedback. They’re also looking at the capability of switching the ball lense for a spectrometer to measure oxygen in blood and diagnose chemical markers. The team plans on presenting at the Frontiers in Optics meeting in San Jose, held in two weeks.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Thanks to A.I. autofocus, Sony's A6400 makes professional results a breeze

The A6400 continues Sony's approach of forging ahead with technological advancements while leaving an unrefined user experience unchanged. Still, you won't find a better camera for under $1,000.
Mobile

iPhone 8 vs. iPhone 7: Is it time to upgrade your device?

We take a closer look at Apple's iPhone 8 to see how it measures up against the iPhone 7. Is there enough going on to justify an upgrade? Which of these iPhones would suit you best? Find out in our comparison.
Mobile

Get $100 discount on the Razer Phone 2 for a limited time

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.
Deals

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.