Cognitive researcher designs and builds a real-world modular working tricorder

Mar 30, 2012 by Bob Yirka weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- To say it’s about copying the tricorder from Star Trek, of television and movie fame, is to belittle the ingenuity and thought that has gone into the devices that Peter Jansen has created; his tricorders, which were designed to look like the devices used by the TV characters, are both far more advanced and far less than their fictional counterparts. Far more, because unlike those represented on the silver screen, his actually work in real life. Far less, because its capabilities are still of the stone-age compared to those we see Captain Kirk or Picard and crew using to identify pretty much anything alien encountered at a moment’s notice.

But that’s not the point. The tricorders from , were merely a starting point, a platform for jumping off of to help in dreaming up a device that could actually do useful things right here on Earth.

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As with most gadgets, Jansen built a test model, which wasn’t very sophisticated, but in making it he learned a lot. The second, the Mark II Tricorder not only looks like the model seen in Star Trek the Next Generation, it’s able to capture and present information about things like temperature, magnetic fields humidity, atmospheric pressure etc. Information is displayed on dual OLEDs. But the real beauty of the device is in how it’s all open source. The operating system (), the hardware, the code. Everything. It’s all right there on his site. This means that other people are free to make one for themselves, but more importantly, to make hardware and/or software modules for the device to suit their own purposes. Thus, it’s not hard to imagine geologists someday soon standing next to an active volcano pulling out one of these customized tricorders, to measure gases in the air they’re breathing, or to see kids, as Jansen describes, programming their own modules to measure important things in their environment such as the level of lethality from a blast of flatulence offered by a friend. It’s both a useful device and a learning tool for people of all ages.

Jansen built a Mark III, which like the previous versions was done in his spare time, (in real life he is a post-doc at the University of Arizona) but didn’t like the direction it was taking so he shelved it and started over. The next version, the Mark IV, will likely have more features and might just be a little sleeker, and cheaper to make (the Mark II costs about $200), goals that have driven the project from the start.

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User comments : 13

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Mike_Massen
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2012
Brilliant, we need more focused and imaginative people like this who have an enthusiasm and ethic to help others too.

With low cost 3D printing on the horizon, lots of these opportunities can burgeon and engage the intellect :-)

Would like a version that sequences the DNA of prospective partners at the coffee shop, club or on a date, you never know what we might find ;-)

Thankyou :-)
Allex
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2012
Awesome. Warp drive - you are next.
hopefulbl
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2012
Brilliant, we need more focused and imaginative people like this who have an enthusiasm and ethic to help others too.
Would like a version that sequences the DNA of prospective partners at the coffee shop, club or on a date, you never know what we might find ;-) "

With low cost 3D printing on the horizon, lots of these opportunities can burgeon and engage the intellect :-)

or find dna of STD pathogens
hopefulbl
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2012
Would like a version that sequences the DNA of prospective partners at the coffee shop, club or on a date, you never know what we might find ;-)


or find dna of std pathogens

Moebius
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
This thing will probably be used by the Ghost Hunters soon and I predict that it will identify new and different forms of phantasms every single episode.
Vendicar_Decarian
0 / 5 (35) Mar 31, 2012
The list of sensors is unimpressive. Most are common among phones these days.

Give it a pico-projector and a camera, and a mass spectrometer and you might have something.
Ensa
5 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2012
This is impressive, not so much compared to Star Trek but because of simply what it is and what it can do at this early stage, as a one man open source project.
We need more of this type of activity and attitude to create and produce as individuals.
I have a 'Tricorder' app for my Android phone. It is just a toy really, but it makes full use of the sensors the phone has and does integrate the info and display it well. It also pulls in data about my environment from the internet. It is another example of a nice bit of free code produced by someone, just for fun, but also useful.
I really believe that if there was some kind of species-wide attitude shift towards spending more time learning how to create and produce for ourselves, in our free time, instead of this emphasis on pure consumption, that would be a wonderful thing. The creative resources available to individuals at this time are staggering.
Vendicar_Decarian
0 / 5 (35) Mar 31, 2012
Correct, and those talents are lost when people are forced to be corporate wage slaves, whose purpose is to push paper or build products that are purposely designed to fail.

Less unproductive work, more happiness.

"The creative resources available to individuals at this time are staggering." - Ensa
Au-Pu
1 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2012
Let us hope that he retains the right to his product and that it is not stolen by the pirates.
He should talk to CSIRO who featured in an earlier article on their WIFI development.
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2012
Let us hope that he retains the right to his product and that it is not stolen by the pirates.
He should talk to CSIRO who featured in an earlier article on their WIFI development.


Wi-Fi was invented by an induvidual, that induvidual didnt get a cent. The CSIRO/Wi-fi case is an example of everything which is wrong with patents.

http://www.webtro...ard.html
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
The real tricorder is something that attaches to your smartphone
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
StarGazer2011 offered simplistic negative aspect
Wi-Fi was invented by an induvidual, that induvidual didnt get a cent. The CSIRO/Wi-fi case is an example of everything which is wrong with patents
This depends on the terms under which an employee is hired, I'm pretty sure he got a salary and may be in line for a percentage depending on how he values his own work.

From my own experience of the CSIRO, you may start with an idea but the infrastructure is in a position to develop it further and pay the rather large sums for patent protection strategies. Its nowhere near as simple as the implication in your post.

Don't know the situation with the person now but, if he is in the echelon with CSIRO then I'm sure he has the intelligence to ensure he feels well recompensed.

@dirk_bruere
Very true, we have leaped over the tricorder re the smartphone & potential attached devices though, I as an engineer always expect a couple of plugs for the use of voltage/current probes for V,I,W etc...
amnon_michael_cohen
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
NICE WORK for 2012 & also beyond...
Personal Voiceprint based, Universal Communications in 'Super Natural Languages' employing usciiiiii code as found on the www...