We've recently seen a number of projects aimed at creating Star Trek
-like medical tricorders
, that take the form of stand-alone electronic devices built specifically for the purpose. Now, however, scientists at the University of Houston are taking an approach that's currently popular in many other areas of product design – they've asked, "Why build a whole new device, if a smartphone can provide the electronics?". The result is a proposed phone lens attachment, that could be used to diagnose diseases in real time.
has turned to crowd-funding website Indiegogo to bring what it calls "the first medical tricorder," its Scout diagnostic device, to market. Though expected to ship to home users in March 2014, Scanadu highlights that until the Scout is approved by the FDA, it should not be thought of as a medical device. Instead, backers are described as testers who will help to gather the data to gain that approval.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a new prototype cell-sorting device which uses sound waves to arrange cells far more efficiently than before. The advance in efficiency presents the possibility that future medical analytical devices could be scaled-down to a size much smaller than is currently the case.
With the way technology is heading, it's a certainty that we'll have a gadget akin to the medical tricorders in Star Trek in the near future - particularly when similar devices like Jansen's Tricorder
and the Scanadu
are in development right now. But while a device for automatically diagnosing patients would be undoubtedly useful, some people worry that this could have an adverse effect on doctor-patient relationships. When a doctor only needs a to use a machine to scan a person like an item at the grocery store, it seems like the human element of medicine could be lost. That's part of the reason a group of graduate students created the Glove Tricorder, which equips a doctor's hand with numerous sensors to augment the typical physical exam.
While still impressive, the capabilities of early "tricorders," such as the Scanadu
and Dr Jansen's tricorder
, fall well short of the Star Trek
device that inspired them. But new technology to be tested on the International Space Station (ISS) brings the age of instant diagnosis of medical conditions using a portable device a step closer. The Microflow could also make its way into doctor’s offices here on Earth where it might help cut down on the number of follow up visits required after waiting to get results back from the lab.
Those of us who envy Superman for his X-ray vision may soon get that ability - on our cell phones. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have reported a new approach to harnessing the potential of the terahertz band
in portable devices.
If Star Trek
has taught us anything, it's the importance of gathering as much information about the alien planet you've just been beamed onto as quickly as possible. To that end, the Science Officer on the away team would perform a quick scan of the surroundings with a handheld, multifunctional sensing device called a Tricorder. Fortunately, we now live in an age where the science fiction of yesteryear is increasingly becoming the science fact of today, and the once futuristic Tricorder is no exception. For his Tricorder Project, Canada's Dr Peter Jansen has designed and built some pocket-friendly devices housing a number of sensors which reveal the secrets of the unseen world around us.
We recently looked at one of the potential contenders
in the US$10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, which as the name suggests, was inspired by the medical tricorder of Star Trek
fame. Now scientists have developed a new way of creating Terahertz (THz) or T-rays, which they say could help make handheld devices with tricorder-like capabilities a reality.
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.
While Star Trek-style multifunctional medical "tricorders" are still in the realm of sci-fi, scientists at the University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) in the UK may be making the first tentative steps toward making them a reality. The researchers are developing a holistic high-tech diagnostic unit designed to quickly detect the "sight, smell and feel" of disease in real time without the need for invasive and time-consuming procedures. Much of the technology being used was originally developed for space research, atmospheric chemistry and emergency medicine.