Everyone’s always looking at their tricorders these days.

Okay, so most people call them smartphones.  And this item, called the Node,

works with the Android to function as a gyroscope, thermometer, magnetometer, accelerometer, humidity meter, altimeter and barometer.  While NASA has already produced a small gas sensor chip

that plugs right into the iPhone’s dock.  But now someone has gone and taken it a step farther by creating an affordable spectrometer which reads a reflected beam of light to determine the molecular makeup of the object it shines upon.  The small hand-held device works with — what else? — your iPhone.

Tricorders have arrived.  Roddenberry’s guess as to when they would appear was just off by a couple of centuries.

This is a functional, Star Trek-style Tricorder designed by Peter Jansen. It’s a self-contained portable sensor. It has GPS, and it can measure ambient temperature, humidity, air pressure, magnetic fields, surface temperatures, colors, ambient light level, ambient polarization, acceleration, direction and distance (ultrasonically). This the the Mark I version, and you can build it yourself.

There’s also a Mark II version that’s faster, more powerful, and has more sensors, and like the Mark I, you can build it yourself.


We agree with Amy Ratcliffe of Nerd Approved when she says, "After lightsabers, the items I found to be the coolest in the sci-fi genre were Tricorders. The Star Trek gadgets were practical, solved a heck of a lot of problems, and they looked cool. While there have been many replicas, someone has finally built a working version. It’s not a precise duplicate of what you see in the series, but the spirit is the same. This functional, Star Trek-style Tricorder was designed by Peter Jansen.“

And we think it’s awesome!

The most basic description is that the Tricorder is a self-contained portable sensor. It has GPS, and it can measure ambient temperature, humidity, air pressure, magnetic fields, surface temperatures, colors, ambient light level, ambient polarization, acceleration, direction and distance (ultrasonically).

The second photo show the Mark 2 version (a work in progress—runs on Linux). If you visit Nerd Approved you’ll find a video showing how it works.

The Tricorder is an open source project, so you can learn how to build your own at The Tricorder Project. However, Jansen claims that a version could be mass-produced somewhere down the line.

[via Nerd Approved]


Like the phaser, the tricorder was an indispensable piece of Star Trek technology which had to be updated for the 24th century. These concepts by Rick Sternbach show how the device evolved into the small, handheld unit that flipped open much like the original communicators.

Source: Star Trek The Next Generation: The Continuing Mission [Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens] 1997
Artwork by Rick Sternbach


There may finally be a crowdfunded “tricorder” that actually works.

Last year, a device called Tellspec raised more than $386,000 on Indiegogo, claiming to be able to identify the “allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food” using a single hand-held scanner costing $250. A few months later, an Indiegogo campaign for GoBe, a “wearable calorie-counting device” was even more successful.

Both devices have been repeatedly accused of being fraudulent, mostly because both seemed too advanced for current technological capabilities, and were oddly hazy when it came to practical demonstrations.

The GoBe device claimed to be able to read glucose levels through the skin and calculate how many calories you consume and burn, while the Tellspec was hailed as a real-life version of Star Trek’s tricorders. But despite multiple investigations suggesting that GoBe was little more than 21st century snake oil, its Indiegogo campaign still closed at just over $1 million.

At first glance, the Kickstarter page for Consumer Physics’ SCiO device looks dangerously similar to the GoBe and Tellspec pages. Its campaign video shows people scanning everyday foodstuffs like apples and avocados to see how much sugar they contain. The overall marketing style also has much in common with the GoBe and Tellspec advertisements, combining vaguely science-y imagery (people writing equations on whiteboards and building bits of spectrometer) with footage of families happily scanning their food to see what it contains. The difference is, SCiO’s claims are far more modest.


Holy Spock! BlackBerry inventor now wants to build Star Trek-like tricorder
Mike Lazaridis, inventor of the BlackBerry smartphone, is starting a $100 million quantum technology fund that’s aiming to turn devices like the medical tricorder from “Star Trek” into reality.

“What we’re excited about is these little gems coming out,” Lazaridis said in an interview in Toronto. “The medical tricorder would be astounding, the whole idea of blood tests, MRIs — imagine if you could do that with a single device. That may be possible and possible only because of the sensitivity, selectivity and resolution we can get from quantum sensors made with these quantum breakthroughs.”