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The MicrobeScope, a powerful pocket-sized microscope, reveals the hidden world of microbes and shares video via iPhone compatibility.
The MicrobeScope, a powerful pocket-sized microscope, reveals the hidden world of microbes and shares video via iPhone compatibility.
The MicrobeScope, a powerful pocket-sized microscope, reveals the hidden world of microbes and shares video via iPhone compatibility.
903 backers pledged $119,988 to help bring this project to life.

About

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The MicrobeScope

$119,988

903

A video of flower pollen shows another dimension of flower beauty.
A video of flower pollen shows another dimension of flower beauty.
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Bacteria captured consuming flower pollen.

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Tsunami debris is a home for microbes on the Olympic Peninsula.

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This is The MicrobeScope with a prototype Kickstand and an iPad Air.

The MicrobeScope Story

The MicrobeScope is a very powerful fixed focus instrument capable of viewing sub 1micron features of individual bacteria and other life forms at the physical limits of optical resolution. It works great in the field, in the lab, or at home yet is simple enough for a child to use. It doesn’t require any supplies like glass slides, and there are no knobs to adjust. 

The specimen is placed directly on the inverted lens, and the internal AAA size battery powered light source provides the illumination. The 800x magnification achieved by this simple device is unmatched by other small scopes and the phone mount is a game changer because of the ability to share real time video. 

The MicrobeScope makes a walk on the beach into a microbe hunt, especially for kids.
The MicrobeScope makes a walk on the beach into a microbe hunt, especially for kids.

The zoom features on newer iPhones can increase the magnification capability to 2,000x with near diffraction-limited performance, and one of the best things about using a mobile phone to capture video is that audio notes or narration can be easily added. Our favorite feature with the iPhone 5s is the slow motion capture ability. Many microbes move at very high speeds and slow motion capture enables us to see them do some pretty weird things. 

The MicrobeScope mounts on a tripod for hands free sample collection.
The MicrobeScope mounts on a tripod for hands free sample collection.

Ben Coxworth of www.gizmag.com has written an article that does a very nice job of summing up what has been presented here on Kickstarter about the MicrobeScope and compares it to other similar microscopes he has written about.  Find the article here.

Developing The MicrobeScope

4D Optical has been doing product development and optical engineering consulting out of the same shop for 10 years, and more than 100 million product units have been sold with optical parts that were designed by us. We have worked for a range of customers from startups to Fortune 100 companies. This MicrobeScope product has been an internal R&D project that we have worked on in between other contracts as our budget allowed. 

The heart of the MicrobeScope is our unique objective lens, and we tried using it in several configurations.

Early versions of what is now called the MicrobeScope.
Early versions of what is now called the MicrobeScope.

While designing the MicrobeScope around our lens, we also hoped to produce a product that was small and had the ability to record video. Before cell phone cameras became as good as they are now we were using standard video cameras. While this scope version produced excellent optical quality, it was not as small or as durable as we wanted. We also tried out a version that was pocket sized, but it did not have good video capture capabilities. When the iPhone 4S came out we realized that it was the perfect video camera, so we went back to the drawing board and came up with the MicrobeScope, which brings all of our original ideas to life.

The MicrobeScope fits conveniently in a pocket.
The MicrobeScope fits conveniently in a pocket.

Two patents have been issued on the MicrobeScope and we have spent lots of time working on this project just because we love it. We think the MicrobeScope will turn the microscope industry upside-down.

MicrobeScope Manufacturing

The MicrobeScope is a serious tool and we take pride in our manufacturing process. The durable outer casing is plastic, but the optics are all glass with optical coatings. Every MicrobeScope has 8 of these precision glass elements that we order from other suppliers, but the secret sauce is in how we put them together and we have spent years perfecting the techniques we use to do this.

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Why Kickstarter?

We are launching on Kickstarter because we respect the Kickstarter community's approach to creative development, and we need early adopters and feedback. We’ve demonstrated the prototypes to a lot of enthusiastic people, but we need exposure to get the word out. We think that there are serious applications for this device, and we want to show what can be done with it. We hope that each Kickstarter will send us a 10- second video clip of their favorite microbial discovery using the MicrobeScope so we can share how cool it is with the world.

Donation: Your pledge of $15 sponsors a donation to a school. For every 10  pledges, we will donate one MicrobeScope. Feel free to nominate a school for consideration. Please post your nominations in the comments on update #2.  Thanks!

Tier 1 or Tier 2:  Your pledge makes you an early adopter and puts a MicrobeScope in your hands soon after the end of the campaign. Please send us a 10 second video clip made with the MicrobeScope.

Tier 3:  Your pledge helps transition us into medium volume production and puts a MicrobeScope in your hands in midsummer or fall depending on how many orders we get. We will ship first come first serve.

Risks and challenges

The MicrobeScope has been developed to a point where it is ready for production in our shop in Edmonds, Washington. We plan to take time off of consulting to focus on fulfilling the Kickstarter rewards. We own the manufacturing equipment we need, and we have tooling and manufacturing stations already set up. We currently have a parts inventory that will allow us to manufacture about 300 units with minimal additional purchasing, and no staff changes. Fulfilling up to 300 rewards will be relatively easy for us. The pictures and videos shown on Kickstarter were made with our pilot units, so the units we will send Kickstarter backers will be identical.

Larger numbers of rewards will be more challenging, but we are ready to ramp it up. If we get more than two thousand orders we will hire technicians and assemblers to staff a manufacturing facility that is separate from our research and development space, and at that volume and interest level it will clearly be a standalone business.

In any case, we believe we can deliver the rewards in a timely manner by ordering and staffing at the appropriate levels. Our suppliers have been chosen for their volume capabilities and the structure of the up front payments from Kickstarter will provide us with the cash we need to order larger volumes of parts and pay salaries. We have been through other startups and have successfully brought products to market, so none of this will be new to us and we look forward to the challenges.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Donation: Fund the gift of a MicrobeScope to a school and support our efforts. For every 10 pledges one MicrobeScope will be donated to an educational institution.

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    17 backers
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  2. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $115 or more About $115

    Tier 1: Get your MicrobeScope first! We will rush you a MicrobeScope from stock we are assembling now. If you are inspired please email us back a 10 second video made on your MicrobeScope. We would love to see what you are doing with it. Thanks!
    Shipping is included for US addresses.

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    Reward no longer available 85 backers
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  3. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Tier 2: Get your MicrobeScope second! We will send you a MicrobeScope in late May or June. If you are inspired please email us back a 10 second video made on your MicrobeScope. We would love to see what you are doing with it. Thanks!
    Shipping is included for US addresses.

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    Reward no longer available 210 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $135 or more About $135

    Tier 3: Get your MicrobeScope as soon as it is ready to ship. We will send you a MicrobeScope and a token of our appreciation for waiting. These rewards will probably start shipping in late June.

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    561 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)