Gizmos & Gadgets: Tricorder of “Star Trek” Fame Comes to Life

Meet the Scanadu Scout (TM), the first medical tricorder coming to you in the near future, in fact by March 2014 if it passes clinical trials.

The Scanadu Scout is a medical scanner packed with a mashup of sensors. Unlike the tricorder of Star Trek you cannot just pass it over the body in Reikian fashion. It must touch you. Just place it on your forehead for ten seconds and it measures key vital signs.

And unlike the tricorder the Scout itself does not display the medical information. That gets transmitted by Bluetooth to your smartphone where it is displayed in easy-to-read output.

Designed by a company at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, California, the Scout recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. Investors get a Scout for a $149 investment if they are early birds. One thousand have already put money down. For those who are late to the investment table you can put down $199 as a “First Responder” to reserve your Scout.

The company wanted to raise $100,000. So far with 9 days to go in the campaign the funding has reached $863,031 and is still climbing.

Scanadu Scout is the equivalent of the medical Tricorder seen on Star Trek. An early version of the device is seen in the image below.




The tricorder was a portable medical lab in episodes of the orignal sci-fi adventure and evolved over time in subsequent series to look much more like today’s smartphones.




The Scout bears no resemblance but provides a rich set of medical data using a sensor-laden package smaller than a hockey puck. The Scout when placed on the forehead for 10 seconds measures:

  • heart rate
  • skin and core body temperature
  • oxygen saturation levels
  • respiration rates
  • blood pressure
  • echo-cardiogram
  • emotional stress

Results are captured and transmitted to a smartphone.

What is the technology behind the Scout? It is the same as the one being used by the Martian rover, Curiosity, the 32-bit RTS Micrium platform chosen for the Sample Analysis at Mars module (SAM).

So why does Scanadu need your money? Because to become a certified medical device they require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. That means extensive clinical testing. And for those who invest it is an opportunity to participate in that testing putting the device through its paces to ensure that it passes as a reliable, over-the-counter diagnostic tool.

So if your game and want to experience a real Dr. McCoy experience pledge a few dollars on Indiegogo and join a Trekkian future today.


Scanadu Scout in Action


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...