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Monday, July 4, 2022

Academics & Research

Student-run start up company creates magnifying lens for smartphones


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The lens, held here by CEO Melissa Jinks, can zoom up to 60x, and makes it possible to see things down to one-tenth the width of a hair. | Pablo Milanese/The Cougar

There’s a smartphone app for almost everything, but in terms of magnifying quality in photos, many phones are still limited.

Thanks to a student-run company founded through the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, an alternative to squinting and straining to zoom-in on photos is changing the way people take their pictures and see the world.

DotLens is a start up company that manufactures a lens that can be attached to any smartphone camera and magnify the image seen through the camera up to 60x, providing a substantial amount of extra detail in the image.

The technology was invented by Wei-Chuan Shih, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his student Yu-Lung Sung, an engineering post-doctorate. Melissa Jinks, a business student with the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, is the CEO.

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DotLens is a student-run company. CEO Melissa Jinks is a business student with the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and Yu-Lung Sung is an engineering post-doctorate. | Pablo Milanese \ The Cougar.

“Smartphone cameras can focus to roughly 3 inches from the object,” Sung said. “The DotLens allows the smartphone to work at a very close distance, down to about a third of an inch, while keeping the image in focus.”

To put this into perspective, according to the DotLens website, the lens makes it possible to see things down to one-tenth the width of a hair.

“The DotLens has a very high quality optical finish that allows magnification up to 60x in addition to whatever digital zoom comes with the camera,” Sung said. “It can resolve details that a magnifying glass cannot.”

This technology allows people to discover the world around them in ways not available to the naked eye.

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This technology allows people to discover the world around them in ways not available to the naked eye. | Pablo Milanese \ The Cougar.

While some people are using the product for recreation, such as studying the details of what a single strand of hair may actually look like or studying small insects, Jinks said the product is more often utilized in schools and education departments.

In November, DotLens was showcased at a trade show, where it was popular among teachers. Jinks said some teachers are starting to use the product in their classrooms in place of microscopes due to its affordability.

“They were so excited to see that DotLens was something that students could use and it was very cost-effective and fit the budget of the school and every individual student could be able to have one,” Jinks said.

Another reason people are utilizing this technology is because it is so portable.

DotLens features a special optopolymer derived from natural rubber which allows the lens to be attached to any type of smartphone or tablet camera and can be easily removed at any time.

The website states that “the material does not stick permanently, it can be as easily removed, and can be reused over and over again.”

Jinks said the business is working on branching the product out to other fields of study, including gemology.

Electrical engineering student Zhenyu Hu is helping with the quality checking and characterizing of the lens. Sung said that director of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Ken Jones has given tremendous support and guidance for the business as well.

There are three different types of DotLens available online right now: 15x, 30x, and 60x magnifications. They can be purchased individually or in packages of up to one hundred lenses.

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