Back in the 50’s and 60’s, the post-World War II boom, the space race coupled with explosive growth in industry prompted a golden age of science toys for kids. Chemistry sets, building tools like Lego and Erector Sets, and yes, microscopes designed for kids, fueled the learning curve of a couple of generations of future scientists and engineers.
Then somewhere in the 70’s, the video age began to take over, and play morphed into something more virtual. It’s therefore quite refreshing to see a truly fundamental tool for the exploration of our world, the microscope, designed for kids and upgraded to take advantage of 21st Century technology – The SmartMicro Microscope for Smartphone.
The SmartMicro is a slick little unit. It’s made of a robust plastic housing, just under 8” long and a bit over 4” wide, with big, easy to work controls that feel nice and sound – Those include a specimen tray ejector, a focus wheel, and an on-off button for internal illumination. That illumination is provided by a nice, bright white LED, powered by two AA batteries, (Which are not included with the SmartMicro, by the way, so plan on getting some to avoid an initial disappointment!) Finally, there’s a soft insert that sits inside the recess within the housing to cushion your smartphone and keep it stable.
Designed for iPhones, the SmartMicro fits everything from an iPhone 4 to a 6+, so there’s a nice range of compatibility there. Six specimen trays of varying size and four covers that snap snugly into the holders round out the outfit.
Those specimen trays slide smoothly into the body of the device, and the grooves are offset, so there’s only one way they’ll fit into the SmartMicro body, a nice touch for limiting frustration by small hands. Conversely, an easy push on the specimen tray eject button slides the tray half way out of the ‘scope, where they can be easily removed and swapped.
Like those junior sized microscopes of decades past, the SmartMicro is designed as an entry level device, something to spark interest and passion in scientists to be. With that in mind, the magnification power isn’t stunning in the broad scale of microscopy, but it’s plenty powerful, bright, and clear enough to spark young passions.
And almost above all other considerations, there’s the fact that your smartphone is on photo mode when you’re using the SmartMicro; this means that all the focus and brightness controls, special effects, and filters on your iPhone can be applied to the images you create through the device. This makes the SmartMicro not only a complete ball for kids, but potentially a really useful tool for school projects and reports as well.
It’s an exceptionally nice touch that the SmartMicro includes those specimen trays. Having those as part of the outfit subtly guides youngsters to explore their world, and frankly, given the wonder of seeing things very up close for the first time, a user to go very far. Something as mundane as a basil leaf, or a piece of loofah sponge, can be really quite fascinating seen and photographed through the SmartMicro.
Stepping out to the backyard with some specimen trays in hand will open a world of potential for little users – And just think about that – Poking around and seeing things as they’ve not seen them before might well fuel a career in ecology, biology, geology, or a veritable pantheon of other avenues – And it all starts with a big view of something small.