A Team of Scientists Figured Out How to Turn Your Smartphone Into a Real-Life Tricorder

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 - 2:30PM
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Medical Tech
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Wednesday, 12 July 2017 - 2:30PM
A Team of Scientists Figured Out How to Turn Your Smartphone Into a Real-Life Tricorder
Image credit: Peter Von Panda
The original medical tricorder from Star Trek was a science fiction staple that seemed close to magic, alerting Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to any and all medical abnormalities. Simply waving the device over a crew member or alien would ben enough to diagnose them with speed that medical professionals today could only dream of. That is, until now.

Recently, two teams of scientists won the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, which is part of a contest that incentivizes researchers to develop devices similar to Star Trek's tricorder device, with the goal of creating a tool that can diagnose multiple diseases and check a patient's vitals, all while remaining noninvasive.

A medical tricorder model based off of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Image Credit: Flickr

The primary winner, Basil Leaf Technologies, created what is known as DxtER, which is an artificially intelligent iPad app. To use it, you attach noninvasive sensors to the body and collect data about vitals, body chemistry, and biological functioning. This acts as both a diagnostic tool and a monitoring device. The second-place winner, Dynamical Biomarkers Group, from Taiwan, created a device that connects to smartphones. Through this connection, the handheld device can analyze vitals, blood and urine, and even the appearance of skin. Both winning devices were able to diagnose an impressive 13 diseases including diabetes, lung disease, anemia, urinary tract infection, and pneumonia. As far as we know, these devices are the most advanced, handheld, noninvasive medical diagnostic tools that exist so far.



These devices aren't as seamless and powerful as the original tricorder, but they're getting there. This type of device could potentially revolutionize healthcare, especially since (like the Star Trek universe) there are many places in the world where medical care is difficult to access. While there may be hospitals and doctors available, transportation to and from healthcare is not always a given. So, while these devices might still be early in development and not a viable way for remote areas to access diagnosis, in the future they could be crucial tools. Hopefully, the quest for a better, more easily applicable tricorder will continue and our universe will start to look more and more like the adventures of Star Trek.
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