Scanadu Scout Is A Real Medical Tricorder
May 22, 2013

A Real Life Tricorder In The Making

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

It´s another invention pulled from science fiction. The Scanadu Scout is a real-life Tricorder, a device from the Star Trek universe meant to measure vital signs by simply placing it on your forehead or temple. As with most other technological advancements these days, this data is then captured on a smartphone within ten short seconds. Scanadu first showed off their Scout last year as a part of an X-prize competition meant to create a Tricorder device that worked just like the futuristic devices portrayed on Star Trek.

Today, Scanadu is turning to the general public to help make this device commercially available. First, Scanadu has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding and allow customers to order a Scout of their very own. Secondly, the company needs people to use the thing before they can get FDA approval. This is where those Indiegogo supporters come in – they´ll be asked to participate in a usability study to get the Scout officially certified.

In about ten seconds (more if you´re moving or talking) the Scout can deliver information about your blood pressure, stress levels, respiratory rate and temperature, all the vital signs the hospital looks for when you´re admitted to the ER. The new Scout model has also been improved from the prototype that was seen some six months ago. The new Scout captures these readings via an optical sensor. The prototype, on the other hand, used an EEG sensor to capture the data. While the prototype was able to capture data, it could only be used by the person holding the device, which isn´t much help to a doctor in an emergency room. The new optical sensors allow anyone to capture data from anyone else, plus it´s also able to capture diastolic and systolic blood pressure with a reported 95 percent accuracy.

The creators of Scout don´t just have some serious nerd cred after building a Tricorder device, they´ve also got the technical prowess to back up their work. The Scout has some NASA roots (the company is based at Ames Research Center) and even borrows some technology from the Mars Curiosity Rover. To power that optical sensor, the Scanadu device runs the Micrium operating system on a 32-bit processor. This is the same OS used by Curiosity to analyze all those samples it´s been digging up.

Scanadu is building two other tests meant to give patients the power of knowing their own vital signs. The company also offers a saliva analysis and a urine analysis test that delivers results to a smartphone.

The saliva test can quickly determine if the patient has come down with the flu or is feeling the effects of strep throat. The urine test can be used to check glucose, nitrates, blood, and even signs of illegal drugs. According to Mashable, the company has just received their first batch of urine tests (a paddle which is urinated upon and then snapped with a smartphone camera for analysis) and plans to begin clinical trials with them soon.

Those interested in picking up their very own Scanadu Scout should hurry. The company is offering up Early Bird units to the first 1,000 people who pitch in $149 to the cause. Potential customers will still be able to pick up a Scout after the first 1,000 are gone, of course, but at a slightly higher price of $199. Once these Early Birds and First Responders receive their units, they´ll be asked to opt-in to the usability study.