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Surprising Science

Inventor Releases Specs for Star Trek Tricorder

The all-knowing device used in the TV program Star Trek has been brought to real life by cognitive scientist Peter Jansen, who equipped the machine with an impressive array of sensors. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Cognitive scientist Dr. Peter Jansen has used his nights and weekends over the last few years to build four different models of Star Trek’s tricorder, the sophisticated 24th century mobile device equipped with an impressive range of sensors. Jansen has made the designs of the devices available to the public through non-commercial hardware and software licensing. “The built-in sensors can measure temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, magnetic fields, color, ambient light level, GPS location, and distance to a surface.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Jansen’s hope is that people will use the open-source technical specifications to improve on the devices and share their designs with the engineering community. Why did Jansen bother? “I think for me, it’s really about curiosity,” he said. “And helping to find ways to see and intuitively visualize the world around us, to help share that curiosity, and get folks excited about science.” The X Prize foundation has announced a $10 million prize for the first working tricorder that will allow doctors to non-invasively scan their patients’ vital signs, blood characteristics and other biomarkers.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


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