I'm a huge geek and sometimes a gadget just speaks to that side of me in such a way I can't resist, even if I don't think I really need it. That's exactly what happened when I heard about the SCiO, which is essentially a personal spectrometer. At least that's what I'm calling it. (Who am I kidding? I'm calling it a tricorder when I'm off the record!) Consumer Physics, the people behind SCiO, call it a "molecular sensor." This is a Kickstarter project so let's check out the pitch video:
So here's my understanding of what happens with the SCiO (disclaimer: I'm a web developer, not a scientist or engineer). You pair the sensor with your phone. When you want to analyze something, you point the SCiO at that material, and it analyzes it using Near Infrared Spectroscopy and sends the raw data back to your phone. From there, the phone beams the data to a central database where the data is compared to known patterns and the source material is identified, and finally that information is sent back to the phone.
So what are the practical applications? The ones being tossed around by Consumer Physics and the press are checking pills to be sure they are what you think they are, and detecting if fruit is ripe without squeezing it or cutting it open. The first seems like something that would be helpful once in a while, the second maybe more often. But I want one just to scan things and learn about them. That's the geek in me.
To start off there will be 3 modules: medicine, food, and plants, with more (hopefully) to come. The SCiO is supposed to be able to tell you the fat and calorie content of food (though you'll still have to weigh it yourself; it'll give you a figure per 100 grams or something similar) and tell you how well your house plants are doing. I'd like to use it to identify plants I find out on a walk. No more uncertainty about leaf or flower shapes.
See what I mean about my geek taking over? Truth is I don't care about the practical applications. This thing is just neat! From looking through the Kickstarter pledges I guess SCiO will be somewhere between $300-$400 at retail but early birds can get it cheaper. There are (or were when I wrote this but they seem to be going fast)
$149, $179, & $199 limited quantity pledge tiers that all come with a SCiO. If you're a developer there are pledge levels that'll get you started creating apps to work with SCiO too. I'm hoping someone makes one that just shows us the raw data.
The Kickstarter project goal is $200,000 and they're already past $186,000 with 46 days to go, so it's looking very likely this will be funded. It's supposed to launch in December. I can't wait to share my hands-on with you (yeah, I already got my pledge in).
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.