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.

Mobile

Huawei Nova 4 has a hole in the screen, and a 48-megapixel camera on the back

Huawei has launched the Nova 4, a new smartphone that has abandoned the screen notch and adopted a punch hole alternative, and also has a massive 48-megapixel camera. Here's what you need to know about the Nova 4.
News

Canary home security company sued over $10 monitoring fee

A class-action lawsuit claims home security startup Canary offered free monitoring features to entice people to purchase their cameras, then started charging a monthly fee to continue using them.
Computing

Nvidia’s Jetson AGX Xavier module is designed to give robots better brains

Nvidia's pricey Jetson AGX Xavier might help drive the next generation of smart robots. Nvidia hopes that developers will use its new Xavier module to power AI-driven machines like delivery drones and robots used in manufacturing.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.
Photography

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.