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A List of All the Times People Have Tried to Build a Working Tricorder

Star Trek-style scanning has been a bit more complicated than expected

The Scanadu Scout is just one of the many devices that attempt to act like a real-life tricorder (Kim Kulish/Corbis)
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How hard could it be to build a handheld, Star Trek-like device that can do it all: diagnose diseases, scan bodies and surroundings, make it possible to look inside living things? Pretty hard, it turns out. But that certainly hasn't stopped people from trying. Here are a few moments in the race to build one of TV’s most inspirational device:

The Time Indie Funding Helped Create a Handheld Device for Vital Signs

Scanadu wanted to create a device able to read vital signs and send them wirelessly to smartphones, so the company turned to the public for funds. $1.6 million dollars later, the company says it has a winner. It’s even seeking FDA approval for their device, writes Fortune’s Stacey Higginbotham. There’s just one problem: the device’s rollout to Indiegogo funders didn't go all that smoothly. The company started shipping the device, and then stopped when it learned that the sensors were already having problems taking readings. It remains to be seen whether it will receive the go-ahead as a medical device.

The Time a Tech Giant Offered $10 Million for a Working Tricorder

Qualcomm really wants a working tricorder — so much that they created a competition that offers $10 million to the team that can create a palm-sized device that can monitor and diagnose health conditions. Ten teams have been identified to complete the project, and they’ll announce their winner next year.

The Time a Lone Grad Student Built an Open-Source Tricorder

Peter Jansen was a Canadian grad student obsessed with the idea of a device that could “see what can’t be seen.” So he invented one that incorporates atmospheric and spatial sensors. In 2012, reports Reuters’ Frank Simons, Jansen posted schematics and designs for the world to see as part of “The Tricorder Project.” It hasn’t been independently verified, but it’s open-source and you can read more about it here.

The Time Another Indie-Funded Company Claimed They Could Identify the Molecular Structure of Anything

One of the fictitious tricorder’s strengths is its ability to see what’s up in the body, and a new device called the SCiO might just be able to do that. Discovery News’ Glenn McDonald reports that the scanner, which will go to market this winter, uses near-IR spectroscopy and crowd-sourced data to identify the makeup of substances. Skeptics are, well, skeptical, but consumers might not be — they pledged over $2.7 million to the project on Kickstarter.

The Time Google Got on the Case

Nanotechnology, data, devices — this Star Trek-inspired Google X project will rely on a capsule packed with nanoparticles and a wearable that can detect them. But you’ll have to wait for it, because like many of these projects it’s still in development.

The Time We Gave Up and Made a Replica of the Star Trek One Instead

Okay, that was more complicated than expected. Here’s an Instructable on how to make a “working” tricorder that sends email, plays music and looks a lot more like the original to tide you over while you wait.

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