UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
University of California San Diego

Zoom Lens for Camera Phones

ECE professor Yu-Hwa Lo
ECE professor Yu-Hwa Lo has designed a zoom lens that mimics the action of the human eye. von Liebig Center technology advisor Tim Rueth and Yu-Hwa Lo co-founded spin-off Rhevision to develop the adaptive zoom lens for applications ranging from cell phones to medical devices.

ECE professor Yu-Hwa Lo has zoomed in on a technology that is expected to revolutionize the digital world. Lo's adaptive zoom lens allows, for the first time, the ability to zoom a camera phone optically. Imagine opening your flip phone and being able to zoom in or out and snap a clear photo of an ant on a flower petal or of someone's fingerprint. That level of detail will be available with the use of Lo's technology. The zooming capability, originally developed by Lo three years ago with a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is created when a small amount of fluid enters a transparent chamber, deforming a membrane over the chamber into a convex or concave shape.

"It's the only viable technology we know of that can provide optical zooming capability for cell phone cameras," says Lo. "Today, cell phone cameras have megapixels comparable to the pixel size of digital still cameras.What's lacking is the optical function due to size, weight and cost limits. Our product is only a few millimeters on each side but it produces an optical zoom capability that allows you to magnify the image by three times."

In 2004, Lo received a $50,000 grant from the Jacobs School 's William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement to further develop his adaptive zoom lens. Last December, Lo, with the help of Tim Rueth, launched a company called Rhevision to commercialize the technology. Rueth, now Rhevision's president and CEO, was Lo's mentor and advisor at the von Liebig Center.

The company, which has an exclusive license from UCSD, received a $75,000 grant from the Center for the Commercialization of Advanced Technologies (CCAT) this spring. Rhevision is currently working with strategic partners and potential customers to develop its product.The company plans to send out samples of the technology to prospective customers within a year.

The commercial market potential for Rhevision's technology is enormous. Picture this: 800 million camera phones will be sold around the globe by 2007, according to a report in EE Times.

Rueth said as more and more functions continue to be integrated into a cell phone, consumers may discard their other digital devices.

"Our vision is in a few years people will no longer have separate digital still cameras or camcorders," Rueth explains. "They will have a multi-functional, multi-media device that is always with them on their belt or in their purse. Now, you have an ever-present picture-taking device and video-taking device that's durable. That will have a huge impact on a person's life."

Besides cell phone cameras, PDAs and digital still cameras, Rhevision's adaptive zoom lens may be used in medical devices such as endoscopes and microscopes, for military reconnaissance, vision aids, biometrics and homeland security devices.

"This technology can provide solutions for many important problems with different applications," Lo says.

Related Links
Website: Von Liebig Center
Contact: For more information, contact Tim Rueth at trueth@rhevision.com or 760-942-9321
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