WANT: A Really Thin, Cool Microscope
by Perry Michael Simon on May 5, 2011
Here’s something that, if it works as advertised, is a very useful and practical advancement over present technology, with several real-world applications. It is also something for which I, and most people, will have no practical use. I want it anyway. You will, too.
It’s a very thin, flat, hand-held… microscope. It uses tiny lenses on glass plates that record equal-sized image slices of whatever they’re seeing (with the slices stitched together by computer for the final image), and unlike typical scanning microscopes, this one uses multiple lenses to take all the shots at the same time, so you don’t have to wait for slow scanning to get the picture. One swipe and you’re good. And it’s pocketable; you can just carry it around and have it at the ready whenever you need to, um, scope something.
The developer, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Germany, is pitching it as a way to detect melanomas by just scanning them with the device and taking high-resolution images of the cells. It’s also being suggested as a way to verify official documents. But any true nerd will want one just to take scans of practically anything, just because. Come on — I know you used to stick everything you could find under the lens of the microscopes in the lab at school. Bugs, food, fingernails, saliva. Everyone does. You know you’re a nerd when, many years later, you’d still do it, and you want to own something like this.
You can’t buy it yet, but the prototype is being shown off at a trade show in Munich this month. It’s about two years off from production, and there’s no indication that it’ll either be affordable or available to “regular” people. Probably not, at least at first. But if it is, I want one. I have no practical use for it, but just being able to pull this device out and take high-res microscopic images of whatever happens to be laying around would be endlessly entertaining.