Revealing images

May 1, 2008
While I’m sure there must be many (well … at least a few) “real” applications for the now-ubiquitous cell-phone cameras, these devices are typically regarded as more of a toy than a serious imaging device.

While I’m sure there must be many (well … at least a few) “real” applications for the now-ubiquitous cell-phone cameras, these devices are typically regarded as more of a toy than a serious imaging device. But researchers in Berkeley, CA, have come up with a novel attachment for a standard phone camera that may help change that perception. Their device enables optical microscope images to be sent over a mobile phone network, meaning they can be shared with other interested scientists based practically anywhere ( Such developments underscore the enduring advantages of conventional optical microscopes, which are still used more than alternative techniques in life-science microscopy. In fact, as noted by contributing editor Jeff Hecht on page 73, the quest to see inside living cells is driving development of many new microscopy techniquessuch as fluorescence imaging and nonlinearfor probing cells at visible wavelengths.

Probing biological systems in the time domain presents another unique set of challenges. Some biological events occur at ultrafast speeds and imaging them without damaging the living tissues requires special cameras and lighting. Current generation high-speed cameras can capture these biological events at rates as high as one million frames per second, revealing information that was previously unobtainable. And the continuous buffering available from digital cameras eliminates the need for elaborate triggering systems (see page 77).

The need to capture and transmit images for analysis is not limited to the life sciences. Optical-imaging technologies have been brought to bear on works of art and historical artifacts for authentication or to gain insight that may aid conservation. Related efforts have also revealed hidden artoriginal work that was subsequently painted over, for instance (see page 85).

Such efforts produce a virtual mountain of image data and new software is continuously being developed to aid in its processing. In one example, image-matching software can automatically reveal small differences between two very similar pictures (see page 57).

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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