We were promised years ago that smart devices would change everything, that the uses they could be put to would be limited only by our imaginations, and that seems to be one thing that actually is coming true. We have seen how a smart device, joined with a specialized earpiece and an app, has the potential to improve the lives of millions suffering from speech impairments due to a host of underlying conditions with TALK. Now, a former University of Washington science student, Thomas Larson, is showing us how we can turn our smart devices into ultra-portable microscopes and ourselves into scientists on-the-go.

At $15 a pop, his invention, the “Micro Phone Lens“, will enable us to get up close and personal with anything requiring magnification without the hassle of packing a magnifying glass or lugging around a microscope. All you need besides your smart device (minimum 5MP camera recommended) for 15X base magnification capabilities (up to 60X with phone camera zoom) is a tiny 1/4” diameter soft lens optically identical to glass but made from platinum-catalyzed silicone that self-adheres to your device’s camera lens. When you don’t need it, store it safely in its case. If it becomes dirty, wash it with water and soap.

Kickstarter campaign photo.

Ostensibly, Thomas hopes to increase Americans’ awareness of and interest in the discipline of science given the United States’ lackluster performance in this educational area when compared with other developed nations, but let’s face it, the lens would just be a kick to use irrespective of any of that.

In some ways, one could argue that a smart device equipped with the “Micro Phone Lens” is better than a magnifying glass or full-bore laboratory microscope. How many microscopes have you used that enable you to simultaneously take photos or video of something while its being examined, or are constructed such that you can examine things where they are (even overhead) instead of bringing them to your examination table? Not to mention that as developers improve handheld device cameras and zoom features, theoretically your magnifiation should improve without the need for a new lens, although Thomas already has plans in the works for a 150X base magnification lens offering in the future. As the Kickstarter page points out, this will have massive implications in terms of health and disease studies in developing nations and anywhere in the field.