He has successfully developed a working tricorder – not the device used by the ship doctor in the series – but capable of taking various atmospheric measurements, including ambient temperature, pressure and humidity.
PhD graduate Dr. Peter Jansen – of the Canadian Cognitive Science Laboratory at McMaster University in Hamilton, has brought another pice of Star Trek technology to life – developing a scientific measuring instrument based on the tricorders from the classic TV series.
He claims that the science fiction series inspired him to become a scientist, and has spent five years developing his device, though the dream of creating it began in high school – when the now 29 year-old ” Jansen was in school, Voyager was the top TV show, featuring tricorder models with screens top and bottom.
The devices first appeared on Star Trek in 1966, hand-held machines for various data sensing purposes that always remained a feature of the programmes, and Jansen, who admits to be an inventing nut, has successfully developed a working tricorder – not the device used by the ship doctor in the series – but capable of taking various atmospheric measurements, including ambient temperature, pressure and humidity.
Electromagnetic measurements to test magnetic fields are also part of the picture, along with spatial measurements of distance, location, or motion, making this multi-purpose tool practical in, for instance, building inspections, though many other uses are envisaged.
He has made his designs public – at www.tricorderproject.org - so that the general public can independently verify claims made for the device – his aim to let technology makers utilize the designs to experiment themselves. Schematics and designs have been posted of both first and second prototype models, the Mark 4 version expected soon at around $200 to interested buyers
Of course the ultimate aim is that incredible medical tricorder, and telecommunications giant Qualcomm are offering developers a $US10 million prize to create a working medical tricorder. They just launched the Tricorder X-Prize Contest – Health care in the palm of your hand – and are looking for innovative inventors to follow the lead of Jansen and improve upon his device.
As much the stuff of science fiction as this sounds, Jansen is far from alone in his research, and Wanda Moebus of the Advanced Medical Technology Association cautioned that any so-called real medical tricorder device would need to be very rigorously tested, as all new medical technologies must be. Jansen, however, is already considering his next project, which is to create a replicator like that seen on the series.
3D printers can already create 3D objects and foods that are dimensional copies of real items, but he wants to see if he can take it a stage further. Even if his ambitions seem a little far-fetched, you have to admire his efforts, and if he DID manage to fabricate a working replicator, how incredible would that be?