Last Updated on January 14, 2021
The SkyLight was a smartphone adapter designed to work with a range of cell phone sizes and types, that enabled microscope users to take clear cell phone images of what they are seeing through the microscope lens. The scope, which cost Kickstarter backers $60, was meant to replace microscope cameras costing thousands of dollars and it negated the need to replace analog microscopes with considerably more expensive digital models.
The Kickstarter project successfully achieved its $15,000 target and actually went on to raise $25,000, and the campaign was considered a success. SkyLight Healthcare Systems Inc, the company behind the invention, went on to be bought out by the GetWellNetwork in 2015, subsequently forming the Interactive Patient Care company. The SkyLight scope is no longer available.
Traditionally, taking a static image of a microscope slide meant buying a permanently mounted slide camera. These were expensive and often relied on the use of proprietary software. Using a smartphone camera was virtually impossible because the zoom level required meant that images were blurred from the slightest vibration, and getting the lens close enough to the microscope proved challenging.
The SkyLight was an adapter that aimed to bridge this gap. The adapter connected to the microscope while the user’s cellphone was cradled in the adapter. This allowed it to take pictures while remaining perfectly still and removing any image blur. The adapter was universal, meaning that the phone could be moved horizontally and vertically so that the phone could be perfectly aligned to the eyepiece. The adapter allowed for a range of eyepiece sizes, up to 2 inches in diameter, which meant that it would work with the majority of cell phone models.
The device could convert microscopes that were decades old into digital versions. It enabled multiple students to view one microscope at a time, and, in the words of its inventor, Andy Miller, “younger people, who are used to always being with their phone, can interact with old technology in a new way.”
Meanwhile, the device had the potential to help overcome a worldwide shortage in qualified healthcare workers. Because smartphone and mobile devices are widely available, even in remote locations, the SkyLight hoped to connect doctors and patients in rural locations the need for a microscope.
The SkyLight Adapter was launched on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, by Miller and his business partner Tess Bakke. Backers were asked to pledge $60 per SkyLight as the pair set a target of $15,000. By 2012, the campaign had raised over $22,000, and more than 300 of the innovative adapters were purchased. As part of the campaign, 60 adapters were also donated to science, education, and global health causes. The pair also won funding for creating prototypes of the device thanks to the Protolabs Cool Idea Awards Program.
The adapter was not only a Kickstarter success, but it gained a lot of press and media coverage. CNet described it as being “absurdly useful… to those who might not have the benefits of modern technology at their disposal” while Mashable said that the “device has the potential to make the microscope a viable tool for diagnosis in more of the world”. The adapter also received cover from PCWorld, ZDNet, and other leading publications.
The device was sold via the successful Kickstarter campaign. However, it didn’t make it to manufacturing, presumably because of its restricted target market and further advances in cell phone and digital imaging technology. In September 2015, it was announced that SkyLight Healthcare Systems Inc had been acquired by GetWellNetwork and the two companies had formed Interactive Patient Care, which offers interactive solutions to bring patients, families, and healthcare providers together.
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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