(via Dr. Peter Jensen)
Back in 2005 a sci-fi documentary came out called ‘How William Shatner Changed the World.' In it, Shatner describes how some gadgets and technology from the original series, as well as others, have become a reality in one form or another in today’s world. The one gadget that is predominantly showcased in every episode hasn’t made the transition from fantasy to reality, until now (no not ‘beaming’ tech). The multipurpose scanning "Tricorder."
Answering the call from Qualcomm to invent a Tricorder (Tricorder X-Prize contest), Dr. Peter Jensen has designed a series of functional prototypes that may win the $10,000,000 US cash prize. The first, called Science Tricorder Mark 1, features eleven different sensors grouped into three categories: spatial (GPS, accelerometer/gyroscope and distance), atmospheric (heat, pressure and humidity) and electromagnetic (magnetometer, colorimeter, non-contact IR thermometer, linear polarization filters and ambient light converter). Housed inside the ‘Star Trek-esque’ case is an impressive array of hardware which includes a Microchip processor, 2.7 inch Sony Reflective TFT display, Cirque TSM9957 touch-pad module with a Microchip 6S26 sensor board (originally made for the PS/2). Jenson used Microchip’s C30 compiler along with their MPLAB IDE software platform to code the Mark 1’s firmware. Total cost to develop and build the Mark 1 set Jensen (and a team of others from his school days at McMaster University in Canada) back around $500 US which is pretty impressive considering it’s based off of 23rd century technology (joking of course).
Next up is Jensen’s Mark 2 Tricorder which features most of the same hardware as the Mark 1 but with updated versions of the same sensors, electronics and the inclusion of an imaging sensor otherwise known as a cellphone camera. Another difference, or upgrade for that matter, over the Mark 1 is the inclusion of separate micro-controllers that make upgrading the sensors easier than its predecessor. The hardware for the Mark 2 has changed somewhat and includes an Amtel AT91RM9200 ARM-based processor along with two 2.8 inch OLED touchscreen displays.
Jensen's newer Tricorder design uses the Debian Linux OS for graphics rendering as well as a host of other applications. One of the noticeable differences the Mark 2 has over the original prototype is its casing. While the original looked like a crude silver cardboard cut-out, the Mark 2 is more stream-lined with a more ‘clean’ look giving it more of a Star Trek-like Tricorder aspect. Both are impressive, to say the least, and function as close to a futuristic Tricorder as possible. However, either of these Tricorders will not detect any alternate time-line fluctuations or alien pathogens, which is kind of a let-down.