Firms target multibillion-dollar mobile optics market

New discovery could provide high-quality, long-range imaging for mobile phones 

One application of technology developed by Vancouver-based NexOptic and Spectrum Optix would be to improve the telephoto function of smartphone cameras | Submitted

The traditional camera could be going the way of the daguerreotype as new lens technology continues to improve the photo capabilities of mobile phones.

Vancouver-based technology companies NexOptic (TSX-V:NXO) and Spectrum Optix have released a trade engineering study that highlights a new type of telephoto lens system that has the potential to provide high-resolution, long-range imaging for mobile devices.

“The discovery changes something that hasn’t been changed in basically four to five hundred years, which is the conventional lens stack,” said Paul McKenzie, NexOptic CEO and co-founder.

By shrinking the lens stack, McKenzie said, the technology will be able to reduce the dimensions of optical devices dramatically. It would allow, for instance, the development of backyard telescopes the size of a toaster.

Over the last few months, the two companies have developed their two patent-pending technologies, Blade Optics and Diamond Blade Optics, with the hope that their discovery will revolutionize smartphone lenses and be put to use in numerous other optical applications.

“The lens space is about $80 billion a year, and that includes cellphone lenses,” McKenzie said. “The cellphone market is about $400 billion a year.”

For sport optics, such as binoculars and consumer telescopes, a study commissioned by the companies last year pegged the market at more than $2 billion.

Depending on the type of market, the two companies plan to manufacture lenses in some situations or offer licence agreements in others. In the next development phase, NexOptic and Spectrum aim to complete smartphone modules and have additional prototypes built.

“Our goal with developing this smartphone demonstration prototype is two-pronged,” John Daugela, president of Spectrum Optix and director of NexOptic, said in a press release.

“First, we envision a telephoto lens stack that can be manufactured at a competitive price,” Daugela said. “Second, we aim to deliver a smartphone telephoto lens system that captures better images of objects at a distance than what is currently available in the market.”

Spectrum has already completed a digital telescope that uses the Blade Optics technology to demonstrate the product’s marketable features.