Bring Optics to Life, Expand Perception Network to the Microscopic Level

Microscopy is widely used in biology, medicine, physics, and material science to enable scientists to understand intricate structures and processes at tiny scales. However, laboratory-grade microscopes can be quite expensive and bulky.

In Sep 2023, this open-source microscopy called ESPressoscope hit the community and showed us something disruptive was happening. It’s an espresso cup-sized XIAO ESP32S3 Sense-empowered microscopy developed by Benedict Diederich and Vittorio Saggiomo. It can be used to find tardigrades around your garden and is good enough to see zooplankton and other micro-particles like microplastic. How amazing is this!

(ESPressoscope – A portable, cheap, wifi and battery-operated brightfield microscope)

Time back to April 2023, when we initially connected with Benedict, the founder of OpenUC2, we were absolutely amazed by the contributions he is poised to make to the open-source community and the field of biotechnology. We are thrilled by the opportunity to introduce microscopy to the world of IoT, as it aligns perfectly with our unwavering commitment to delivering advanced sensing networks. To meet this demand, we teamed up with OpenUC2 to create an affordable open-source modular microscopy toolkit. The unique features of the XIAO ESP32S3 Sense make it an unrivaled choice for enabling an enhanced version of microscopy.

Hardware Introduction

The UC2 modular optics kit is based on a simple concept in which optical and electronic elements are mounted in 50 mm cubes. These cubes can be aligned in 3D to construct an arbitrarily complicated beam path. The cube itself is injection molded to ensure a high degree of precision, while the inserts holding each element are 3D printed to allow maximum flexibility. The system is open source, so you can download it and start building and, above all, modify it immediately. Inside the Seeed Studio XIAO S3 Sense-based kit, you’ll find everything you need to build your own microscope. A flashlight illuminates the sample, which is imaged with a state-of-the-art microscope objective held in a refocusing stage. A mirror deflects the beam before it reaches the camera to create an image on the XIAO sensor. You can access the real-time image stream via the website running on the ESP32 or via an open-source APP. For more detailed documentation, see the UC2 wiki system:

The key features are:

  • Open-source and modular
  • Relatively low-cost (300€ vs. >>1000€ for other commercially available microscopes)
  • Highly customizable 
  • Ability to repair on your own
  • Extend the functionality by adapting your own hardware/software elements
  • Upgrade existing setups with new kits 


  • Cutting-edge lab-grade microscopy for multipurpose imaging (e.g. macroscopic objects like plants, cells, down to bacteria and even viruses)
  • Final results depend on the combination of individual cubes and modules and can get really complex, but still compact and portable
  • Customization of optical systems with (microscopy) Objectives, cameras, mirrors, projectors, lasers, LEDs, actuators, linear stages, focusing elements, transducers, and heatings… can define the imaging modality
  • Combining ready-to-use modules to complex assemblies User-defined setups
  • “Robotic microscopy”: Fully automated using XIAO ESP32S3 Sense, python interfaces, and web interface to run time-lapse imaging or track individual objects on a microscopic level

Application Scenarios

  • Education (CORE)
  • Higher-level education, University courses (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Medical Students, Engineering, Computational Science) 
  • Extracurricular Spaces, learn STE(A)M outside schools  
  • At home 
  • Professional (Investigator) 
  • Turn-key microscopy solutions in Biolabs
  • Plant laboratories 
  • Customization of optical setups using off-the-shelf tools and little-to-no knowledge of optics

Through this kit, we aim to provide rapid prototyping capabilities and limitless customization options. Our goal is to make this cost-effective research tool accessible to a broader community, including educational institutions and research laboratories. We’re also eager to make it a tool in underserved regions. Benedict and his team are currently engaged in a malaria detection project in Nigeria, although there is still a long road ahead, we are still confident in the promising future that is coming.

The UC2-XIAO Microscopy is under development and building, fill in this questionnaire to let us know your feedback which will be helpful for us to make necessary adjustments to provide you with a more targeted and mature product.

Workshops Recap (Keep Updating)

24-Hour “Hack Your Module” Hackathon Using OpenUC2 Optics Toolkit on July 14, 2023, a Collaborative Event aimed at Advancing Open Source Optics supported by GOSH Community 

Gathering passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds including biology, computational science, physics, engineering, and medicine, this hackathon focused on four community-selected challenges, each of which is thoroughly documented to allow online participants to contribute remotely. They are BluFocus, HistoScanner, openOCT, and Cassette Sampler. The detailed information on each project and the outstanding results achieved by each team have been recorded in Benedict’s report, know more details

Joint Summer School in Collaboration With the BioRTC (Biology Research Transfer Center) 2023 at Yobe University in Nigeria

The workshop’s mission is to establish microscopy facilities in underserved regions, imparting knowledge and skills to local researchers. Benedict and his team provided advanced microscopes and guidance, despite potential conflicts in Niger. Students learned open microscopy techniques, including fluorescence imaging, contrast enhancement, and CAD design. Seeed contributed XIAO ESP32S3 Sense, supporting this meaningful journey. Read the full story here!

Napari Workshop Multidimensional Optical Microscopy in Milan on Sept 26th – Sept 27th 

Two-day workshop at Politecnico di Milano, with 20 participants in-person (access available online too).

  • Get started with Napari programming.
  • Dig into existing plugins for optical microscopy.
  • Build Napari widgets in hands-on sessions. (python knowledge required)

This product is one of our upcoming licensed products, if you have any plans to scale up your ideas or prototypes, welcome you to learn more about Seeed Studio Co-Create Program. Through this program, you could:

● accelerate the process of prototype to large-scale production
● leverage existing global sales network and online sales platform
● utilize a comprehensive marketing network to build your brand awareness

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November 2023