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Surprising Science

Coming Soon: A Real Medical Tricorder

Medical tech startup Scanadu has met its goal of having a prototype device ready by the end of this year. It works by reading vital signs from the user’s temple.

What’s the Latest Development?

California-based Scanadu announced this week that it will have a prototype of its SCOUT handheld medical tricorder ready by the end of this year. When held to a person’s temple for 10 seconds, the device reads vital signs, such as heart rate and temperature, and feeds the results into a free smartphone app, which records all readings for future reference. Scanadu designers are working on a system that will eventually let users send SCOUT data to their doctors, but for now it’s viewed as a way to keep better track of one’s health. The 10-second read delivers results with 99 percent accuracy. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The concept of a tricorder, or handheld data scanner, originated on Star Trek in the 1960s. Today, Scanadu’s is one of several teams competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, which offers an award of $10 million for the device that can best identify key health data and diagnose a set of 15 diseases. Scanadu co-founder Walter de Brouwer, who first prototyped a much larger version of a tricorder in the 1990s, says, “[I]n this time of personalized readings we should have personalized parameters….This is the smart thermometer which incorporates a complete emergency room.” Expect to see SCOUT on the market by the end of 2013.

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