FluidFocusPhilips Research developed a variable-focus lens based on liquids. This liquid lens is a breakthrough invention in miniaturization of optical systems, because it does not need a motor for focusing. It mimics the action of the human eye by changing its shape. The new ‘FluidFocus’ lens, which lends itself to high-volume manufacturing, overcomes the fixed-focus disadvantages of many of today’s low-cost imaging systems.

Besides its compactness, the FluidFocus lens has several more advantages over conventional focusing systems: it is robust, has an extremely low power consumption and high switching speed. The lens is a key innovation for all kind of digital cameras such as camera phones, security cameras and endoscopes.

For the time being Philips is concentrating on endoscopy, while also considering other applications. For small-diameter endoscopes, such as urethroscopes, there is no conventional solution for adjusting the focal distance. Endoscopes therefore have a relatively poor image quality. With its choice for endoscopy, Philips follows the trend towards more minimal-invasive diagnostics and treatment.