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Check your vitals with a real-life Tricorder

A start-up has created a Bluetooth device that uses NASA technology to scan your vital signs and send them to your smartphone.


(Credit: Scanadu)

A start-up has created a Bluetooth device that uses NASA technology to scan your vital signs and send them to your smartphone.

In January of last year, Qualcomm opened the Tricorder X Prize — a global US$10 million competition to develop a functional Star Trek-style Tricorder that can successfully diagnose 15 medical conditions based on health metrics. With such a juicy prize on the line, start-ups and established companies are champing at the bit — and one that looks particularly promising has just taken to Indiegogo to raise further development funds.

The Scanadu Scout is being developed by start-up Scanadu, based at the NASA Research Park in Moffett Field, California. With a team consisting of medical doctors, data scientists, mathematicians, coders, molecular biologists, mechanical and electrical engineers, and biophysicists with access to NASA tech (and designer Yves Béhar, who was behind the Jawbone and Ouya designs), the team is well placed for success.

(Credit: Scanadu)

The device itself is built around Micrium's 32-bit RTOS platform, which NASA employed for Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) on the Curiosity rover, and uses Bluetooth 4.0 to wirelessly send data to an Android or iOS app. It charges in an hour via micro USB, and if used a few times a day, can last up to a week.

To use the device, the user holds the sensor to their forehead, where it can measure heart rate, skin and core body temperature, oxymetry, respiratory rate, blood pressure, ECG and emotional stress. At this point, though, the device cannot legally be used for medical purposes as its yet to receive US FDA approval. "We are creating a medical-grade device, which is not yet fully accurate and not FDA-approved," the Indiegogo campaign page says. "Hence, this is not a medical device. Via this campaign, you may contribute, and your input may affect the final design and characteristics of this revolutionary tool."

Early adopters may opt in to the clinical trial, which will use the Scanadu Scout to send their data to the Scanadu team to refine the device. For each study, the team will notify the user and ask them to sign an Informed Consent form, meaning that your data cannot be collected without both your knowledge and explicit permission.

To pre-order a Scanadu Scout, the cost will be US$199, with global shipping on top. Higher reward tiers include more Scout devices, a day as a citizen astronaut, tours of the NASA Research Park and tickets to the November 2013 FutureMed conference in San Diego. The device itself is expected to ship in March 2014.

Head on over to the Scanadu Scout Indiegogo page to pledge your support.