These Tiny Lenses Can Turn Your Smartphone or Tablet Into a Microscope

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©. Smart Micro Optics

Use your mobile device to explore the tiny side of life with these easy-on/easy-off lenses.

If you've got a curious nature and want to see more than meets the (naked) eye, a microscope is a great tool. But if, like many of us, you already have more gear and gadgets than you probably need, and carrying a lab instrument with you - even a small portable one - isn't a good fit, you're in luck, because this little product lets you repurpose the device in your pocket as a portal into the microscopic realm. Add-on lenses for smartphones are fairly popular with the Instagram and amateur photography crowd, and lenses that magnify tiny objects aren't exactly new, but the Blips line of "mini-objectives for smartphones" looks to be a strong contender in the 'smartphone accessories for nature nerds' category.

Blips microscope smartphone lens

© Smart Micro OpticsThe Blips lenses, from SmartMicroOptics, are claimed to be "the world’s thinnest objectives for portable microscopy on smartphones or tablets," and for just under $30 for the basic kit, are affordable as well. The objective lenses are mounted onto a thin flexible film, and can be attached to virtually any mobile device without using any glue or having any sticky residue left behind, as it clings to the glass surface of the device with electrostatic forces and can be removed or installed quickly and cleanly. The basic set includes a macro lens that claims a magnification factor of about 10 times, as well as a micro lens that can achieve a magnification level of up to 100x (when combined with digital zoom).

"Blips Micro permits the use of your smartphone for real microscopy applications. Blips Micro can recognize details of about 1/7000 inch (≈1/275 mm), so distinguishing cells or other inhabitants of the micro-world. BLIPS Micro is less than 1/20 inch (≈1.2mm) high, and it turns your phone into a real digital microscope." - SmartMicroOptics

The lenses are intended to be easy to install and remove, and to literally fit into your wallet (or be attached to the back of the phone while not being used), and could be a great accessory for the nature nerd and smartphone junkie, while also enabling more citizen scientists.

For those who want to take their curiosity to a whole new (microscopic) level, the company also offers a Lab Kit, which includes the lenses and a stage for holding the smartphone in the optimal position for viewing the magnified images, as well as a light source and pre-assembled glass slides, and its Ultra Lab kit includes an even higher magnification lens. And of course because we're talking about a smartphone accessory, an app is also included, which is said to add functionality to the device's camera to help users "take fantastic macro and micro pictures."

This smartphone microscopy system was developed by Smart Micro Optics, a spin-off company of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), and was originally launched on Kickstarter, where it was very well received. The company is now taking orders for the products on its website.