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'Star Trek' tricorder becomes the real McCoy

You'll soon be able to embrace your inner Bones McCoy. Decades after "Star Trek" made the small device that could scan for vital signs famous, the medical tricorder is ready for prime time.

2 min read

The small handheld medical reader used by Dr. Leonard McCoy in "Star Trek" has been replaced by a smartphone. The real-life tricorder is a sleek, square device called a Scanadu Scout that works with your phone.

 'Star Trek' tricorder becomes reality
Watch this: 'Star Trek' tricorder becomes reality

The Scanadu can read your vitals in 10 seconds, measuring heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure, ECG, and emotional stress. You hold it to your forehead and the information is wirelessly transmitted to your smartphone. It works on iOS and Android devices.


Founder and CEO Walter De Brouwer explained the Scanadu Scout is not just for doctors. He's looking to enable patients with an informative, easy-to-use device so they can play a larger role in the healing process.

"People need something cool, that they immediately understand and that they can have a relationship with their doctor." De Brouwer joked, "We don't want to make something just for retired engineers with a chronic disease."

The device has 106 unique components, including an infrared thermometer, three accelerometers, and a microphone. De Brouwer says doctors and patients would use the same device, but the doctor version of the app would have more detailed information. He claims their algorithms are 95 percent accurate.

CBS/Star Trek

While De Brouwer is a "Star Trek" fan -- he recently met Rod Roddenberry, son of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry -- the real inspiration for the Scanadu was his son, who was hospitalized for a year after an accident. Time spent monitoring the hospital machines and making Excel spreadsheets to track his son's condition made De Brouwer feel more informed and empowered.

"It's that sort of experience I wanted to give in a new device, so if people without health insurance or in the third world would say, 'At least I have something. I know what's going on and understand, and it's time to be treated like an adult with my doctor.'"

Interest in Scanadu propelled it past Let's Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum to break the record for most-funded campaign in Indiegogo history, raising over $1.5 million. Scanadu is taking pre-orders through Indiegogo for $199, and the units are expected to ship in March 2014. The company is seeking FDA approval. Once the device is FDA-approved it will be sold to the general public.