There are countless cool ways to extend the abilities of your smartphone by plugging in or linking up additional hardware. But here’s a Kickstarter project that wants to use your smartphone to extend the powers of something else: a basic microscope — allowing for real-time videos of microbes doing weird stuff to be captured on your phone and easily shared to your social networks (if you’re that kind of person). That’s really going to spice up the Facebook news feed.
The MicrobeScope, which has already more than tripled its $10,000 Kickstarter fundraising goal and still has 25 days left of its campaign to run, uses the owner’s iPhone (or other smartphone) to stream and capture video footage of whatever’s being viewed on the microscope — holding the handset in place via a dedicated phone mount attachment.
The microscope itself is a fixed focus instrument with 800x magnification which supports sub 1 micron features of individual bacteria or other lifeforms. (Newer iPhones’ zoom features can apparently increase the magnification capability to 2,000x with “near diffraction-limited performance”).
The MicrobeScope features an inverted lens, where the sample is placed directly — rather than using a system of slides. It then has an internal light source for illumination, powered by an AAA battery.
The lack of slides limits the MicrobeScope’s capabilities for professional use-cases but that’s intentional on the part of its creators, who say they want to create a simple tool for hobbyists and kids to play around with and get inspired by the microscopic world. (The gizmo shares something with the even simpler but less powerful Illumoscope iPhone accessory that took to Kickstarter last summer but failed to hit its funding goal.)
And while the company says it’s likely it will develop a version of the MicrobeScope that does utilize slides, it adds: “Our main goal was to popularize high magnification by removing the need for immersion oil, glass slides, and high precision stages.”
It also suggests that looking at previously captured videos of bacteria behaviour could be an alternative field study method to re-reviewing slides — also noting that the iPhone 5s’ slow motion capture feature allows for fast moving bacteria to be slowed down for easier study.
How much is the MicrobeScope going to set you back? Currently it costs from $125 to Kickstarter backers. Once all those pledges are gone it will step up to $135. Estimated shipping schedule starts in May/June.