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Scanadu developing a real-life medical tricorder

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December 30, 2011

Tech start-up Scanadu is developing a real-life version of a Star Trek-style medical trico...

Tech start-up Scanadu is developing a real-life version of a Star Trek-style medical tricorder, which would be able to assess a patient's state of health on the spot

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The future technology depicted in the various Star Trek TV series and films certainly holds a lot of appeal for many of us - who wouldn't want to teleport to Hawaii, live out their fantasies on a holodeck, or enjoy some instant gourmet chow straight out of a replicator? It looks like the Star Trek item that we're the closest to seeing become a reality, however, is the medical tricorder. This May, the X-PRIZE Foundation proposed a US$10 million Tricorder X-PRIZE, with the intention of encouraging the production of consumer devices that can assess a person's state of health. The first potential contestant, which already has a tricorder in the works, is a tech start-up by the name of Scanadu.

Founded in January 2011, Scanadu is based out of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and is headed by CEO and futurist Walter De Brouwer.

Although its inner workings are being kept secret, the Scanadu Tricorder is a small, handheld device, that would be used in conjunction with the processing power and screen of a smartphone. In a non-contact, non-invasive fashion, it would be able to measure vital statistics such as blood pressure, pulmonary function, and body temperature. An onboard hyper-spectral camera and microfluidic lab-on-a-chip would also be able to analyze rashes and infections, and process blood and saliva samples, respectively.

Based on these and other measurements, it could then offer a diagnosis, and advise its user on what course of action should be taken. If a doctor needed to be involved, the patient data on the tricorder could be instantly transferred to them. If it turned out to be something that could be treated at home, then an unnecessary trip to the emergency room or doctor's office would be avoided.

The Scanadu Tricorder would be used in conjunction with a smartphone

The first generation of the tricorder will be aimed at parents, for use on their young children. Although it's hard to know just how far along the device is in its development, Scanadu did recently announce that it had received US$2 million in funding from a group of private investors - that's certainly going to help.

Other products have already made steps in the direction of smartphone-based tricorders. Melapp and the Handyscope utilize a phone's camera to assess suspicious skin markings, the iHealth system helps users manage their weight and blood pressure, while iBGStar allows diabetics to measure their blood glucose levels.

More information on the Scanadu Tricorder can be seen in the promotional video below.

Source: Singularity Hub

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
8 Comments

I Love This Idea! The idea that it could help concerned parents is brilliant! It seems that with time the functionality could increase, or a second sensor could do a little ultrasound to check organ, muscle, and bone issues. It could then be tailored to older patients interested in tracking their health, or in athletes checking themselves and their injuries. Workers could check their joints and their stress levels and do something about it before they get sick or injured.

Carlos Grados
30th December, 2011 @ 03:37 pm PST

I can't wait for the TriCorder X Challenge to start accepting entries. I've been working on a similar device that detects cancers and other ailments and conditions without physical contact to the subject.

Facebook User
31st December, 2011 @ 09:55 pm PST

A few MIT engineers and I have been working on our own "tricorder" type technology. There are a lot of challenges in turning technology into a product without violating any patents. Luckily a couple of our guys have some amazing out-of-the-box ideas that, although the end-user may never appreciate fully, are crucial in the development of the product. Thomas Edison was the most famous inventor but there are a lot of great minds that will never get public notice because their innovations aren't as obvious to the end-user as the light-bulb.

Kumi Alexander
1st January, 2012 @ 10:06 pm PST

This is the most exciting thing I've read in a long time.

Flying cars, robots, whatever, THIS is something really beneficial and (hopefully practicable) that can seriously change a lot of lives.

The best part is that the software is eminently upgradable, and the scanner units can be easily replaced.

Neil
2nd January, 2012 @ 07:23 pm PST

Very cool. Bones would love it.

Lynne Krause
3rd January, 2012 @ 08:48 am PST

But does it make the medical scanner sound?

Gregg Eshelman
3rd January, 2012 @ 09:49 pm PST

Hey Fred and Mark. I'm an employee at Scanadu and I'd love to hear what you guys are working on. We are always interested in technology partners so please contact me at evan@scanadu.com if you are interested in chatting. Thanks!

Evan Barry
9th January, 2012 @ 08:27 pm PST

This is super cool indeed! I love this! Thanks for sharing!

Daisy Liddell
12th February, 2013 @ 10:33 pm PST
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