Feeds

The $5 ‘no moving parts’ fluid zoom lens – twice

Is Philips offering something somebody else prepared earlier?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

This week at CeBIT Philips will formally unveil a cheap, no moving parts lens system that could make it feasible for a camera to come as standard with virtually anything electronic. But last month at 3GSM a similar system from French company Varioptic broke surface; the two appear to be unrelated, and as Varioptic has previously claimed to hold "two fundamental patents" covering the technology, one might speculate that a legal clash could be on the cards.

Philips's patent application, WO 03/069380, is for "a variable focus lens comprising a first fluid and a second, non-miscible, fluid in contact over a meniscus. A first electrode separated from the fluid bodies by a fluid contact layer, and a second electrode in contact with the first fluid to cause an electrowetting effect whereby the shape of the meniscus is altered."

Varioptic, in WO 99/18456, describes "a lens with variable focus comprising a chamber filled with a first liquid, a drop of a second liquid (11) being provided on a first surface zone of the chamber wall, wherein the chamber wall is made of an insulating material, the first liquid is conductive, the second liquid insulating, the first and second liquid are immiscible, with different optical indices and substantially of the same density. Means are provided for positioning said drop in inoperative position on said zone, comprising electrical means for applying a voltage stress between the conductive liquid and an electrode (16) arranged on said wall second surface, and centering means for maintaining the centering and controlling the shape of the drop edge while a voltage is being applied by electrowetting."

Cut to the chase, for those of you still with us - the systems both use an electric current to change the shape of a fluid lens, producing something with at least some similarity to the operation of the human eye. In addition to WO/99/18456, Varioptic's Bruno Berge also has WO 00/48763, which describes "A method for centering a drop of liquid on a given point on a surface."

Philips' application references both Berge's patent applications, describing such a lens as "complex to manufacture and, particularly in the cylindrical configuration, requires a relatively high voltage in order to alter the lens characteristics of the droplet," and adds that the technique proposed in 58763 means that "manufacture of such a lens remains relatively complex."

Philips is therefore clearly aware of Berge's applications, and must be taking the view that they're less impregnable than Varioptic claims. It may also be significant that Varioptic has begun signing up handset manufacturers, meaning that Philips had to break cover before the horse had entirely bolted.

A Varioptic spokesman declined to comment on the matter to The Register, but reiterated the company's confidence in the strength of its IP assets. Talks, quite possibly involving m'learned friends, would seem the logical next step. ®

Related links

Philips sets out its stall
Varioptic struts its prior art

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.