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Canadian Man Releases Open Source Star Trek Tricorder 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-far-ahead-of-stone-knives-and-bearskins dept.
New submitter upontheturtlesback writes "Another example of Star Trek technology becoming a reality. In light of the recent Tricorder X-Prize announcement, Dr. Peter Jansen has openly released the designs for a series of Science Tricorders that he developed while a graduate student at McMaster University. The Science Tricorders are capable of sensing a variety of atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial phenomena. Where the Science Tricorder Mark 1 is a relatively easy-to-build proof of concept, the Science Tricorder Mark 2 runs Linux and resembles a cross between a Nintendo DS and scientific instrument with dual OLED touch displays. An exciting video shows them in action, and describes the project goal of creating general scientific tools for learning about and visualizing the world, as well as their importance for science education by helping kids understand abstract concepts like magnetism or polarization visually. The hardware schematics, board layouts, and firmware source are freely available on the Tricorder project website under various open licenses."

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Canadian Man Releases Open Source Star Trek Tricorder

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  • sweet (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:32PM (#39503467)

    It's finally here but I can't wait until the fourcorder!

    • quadcorder
      1. Geological
      2. Meteorological
      3. Biological
      4. ???
      5. Profit!!!

      • You guys can suck it.

        I've been using my bi-corder for years, which can both record audio and play it back for years.

        Always waiting for the cool shit that will be released "soon" means you never play with the cool shit available now!

        • by yesiree (1630527)
          "Always waiting for the cool shit that will be released "soon" means you never play with the cool shit available now!" I actually have met people that lived like that. For example a friend of mine never bought a computer when we were kids because "there is a better version coming in a few months". He said that for some years...
          • Guilty of doing that myself when young, but that might also have been due to having to argue to a ridiculous level to get an obsolete computer replaced when relying on parents to do the purchasing.

            No longer a problem these days, as I can afford to buy them myself, and I do... :)
    • I just downloaded the plans.Since I do have one of the original Tricorder props (I have 2)from Star Trek TOS,I gonna build in into that.

      • I just downloaded the plans.Since I do have one of the original Tricorder props (I have 2)from Star Trek TOS,I gonna build in into that.

        Too bad these are Next Gen style tricorders.

        • Fix the dollar to the kilowatt?Have you been reading Arthur C.Clarke's "Imperial Earth"?

          I know it is the ST TNG Tricorder.But that doesn't prevent me from trying it out on the original,now does it?

          The Original Tricorder Prop was little more than a modded Cassette tape recorder.Just like the original clam shell communicators operated on channel 14 of the 27 MHZ CB band at 100 mw,powered by a 9 volt battery.Or that the pistol Phasers I have now sport 2.5 watt laser diodes.(that will do until I can get some mu

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      It's finally here but I can't wait until the fourcorder!

      I'd just wait for the fourScorder myself. The fivecorder probably won't be out until the year after anyway.

      • by gfreeman (456642)

        I'd just wait for the fourScorder myself. The fivecorder probably won't be out until the year after anyway.

        Silly person. It's going to the be "fourCorder S"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Two great tastes that taste great together.

    • by rhook (943951)

      Too bad CBS will likely kill this the same way they killed the free Android tricorder. They claim to own the LCARS interface.

      • by Endovior (2450520)

        Too bad CBS will likely kill this the same way they killed the free Android tricorder. They claim to own the LCARS interface.

        Having checked out the project's page, it doesn't use LCARS, so that won't happen. So far as the other legal issues go, and to quote Wikipedia "The company was permitted to call this device a "tricorder" because Gene Roddenberry's contract included a clause allowing any company able to create functioning technology to use the name." The free Android 'Tricorder' was just a fancy interface, so CBS was allowed to cry foul. If, on the other hand, you make an actual working Tricorder (which name you could app

        • by rhook (943951) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:29AM (#39505073)

          Too bad CBS will likely kill this the same way they killed the free Android tricorder. They claim to own the LCARS interface.

          Having checked out the project's page, it doesn't use LCARS, so that won't happen.

          You didn't look at the page very much.

          http://www.tricorderproject.org/tricorder-mark1.html [tricorderproject.org]

          Clearly that is using the LCARS interface.

          • by Endovior (2450520)

            Too bad CBS will likely kill this the same way they killed the free Android tricorder. They claim to own the LCARS interface.

            Having checked out the project's page, it doesn't use LCARS, so that won't happen.

            You didn't look at the page very much.

            http://www.tricorderproject.org/tricorder-mark1.html [tricorderproject.org]

            Clearly that is using the LCARS interface.

            My bad; I was looking at the Mark 2, which uses Debian, and is totally different-looking. Really, though, the interface is a more-or-less trivial concern. Hell, we're not even talking about actual, concrete, user-interface issues, we're talking about a skin image that can be dropped onto the interface and trivially replaced with anything else you'd like at will. Furthermore, since there is more to the product then just such an image, it's not a question of 'shutting it down automatically with no real cha

  • by Troyusrex (2446430) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:34PM (#39503491)
    For instance, I couldn't get the neutrino beam working and while scanning for life forms it identified my cat as silicone based! Neat, but needs some work.
    • It's because you didn't channel main power through the main deflector dish. Duh.
    • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:49PM (#39503621) Journal
      Man is this thing dumb. It assumes that we're going to be exploring planets with a GPS system. And by the way, if it comes with a red shirt, DON'T buy it.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      My cat is silicon based. It's a statue of the tomcat my grandparents used to own when I was five or six.

      (I'm allergic to cats.)

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      bad news for you fella, your cat is actually a horta. you should have clued in when the coughed up hairballs dissolved the glass coffee table
    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:13PM (#39504261)

      The neutrino beam is being worked on.

      The issue with the cat being misidentified as being silicone based was not entirely in error. After reviewing the scan and command logs, your command "identify my cat" ran into a limitation of the internal verbal dictionary.

      Basically, as far as we can determine, the tricorder looked up "cat" for synonyms, and determined that "pus" and "pussy" were suitable alternates.

      It then locked onto the silicone vaginal simulator you keep in your closet, and properly identified its molecular composition.

      We have forwarded the bug report to our naturnal language coding team, and hope to have a bugfix soon.

      Thank you for using Tricorder!

      • Wow... This is the first time I heard from customer service and they didn't just say "upgrade to the latest version and reboot"!
    • by Vokkyt (739289)

      Have you considered the possibility that you're being stalked by someone with a personal cloaking device?

  • Nice, but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dwywit (1109409) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:48PM (#39503607)

    Call me when there's a functional Voight-Kampff machine.
     
    And a nexus-6 pleasure model to test it on.

  • OK... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:49PM (#39503619)
    We'll see [slashdot.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How many hostfile entries does it have?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Give me a GCMS/Spectroscope that's hand-held - that's where the really useful info comes from. The best I've seen are prototypes for Haz-Mat - some amazing stuff. Doped glass arrays could be packed really small for detecting known compounds - but remember that its a Tricorder - so it needs to be able to characterize unknowns. I hope they don't end up using that tacky blue band style favored by the Empire... oh wait... Federation. ;)

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      True its 'just a meter', but you have to start with something or you never get to the end. Also, try doing this in a hand held device 20 years ago... Advancements are being made, and this is just one step along the way.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    none of you have done ANYTHING or has built ANYTHING.

    This guy is 800X a man than any of you ever will be simply because he is actually doing something other than being a tool like the rest of you.

    He is designing and releasing the code and designs. Most of the people posting here can barely chew gum and tie their shoes at the same time, and are proud they can find their SUV's gas cap when they need to fill it up.

    Bunch of freaking loudmouth loser posers, the lot of you.

    • This guy is 800X a man than any of you ever will be

      To be honest, I would feel sorry for him if he was LESS of one than I am.

    • by ezzthetic (976321)

      Most of the people posting here can barely chew gum and tie their shoes at the same time.

      Ooh, we can too.

    • by Krater76 (810350)

      This guy is 800X a man than any of you ever will be simply because he is actually doing something other than being a tool like the rest of you.

      Oh please, he's AT MOST only 750X the man I am.

  • Memory Alpha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FrootLoops (1817694) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @09:39PM (#39503997)

    Memory Alpha (the Star Trek wiki) says [memory-alpha.org]

    The first "real-world" tricorder was developed by a Canadian company called the Vital Technologies Corporation in 1996. The scanner was called the TR-107 Mark 1; Vital Technologies sold 10,000 of them before going out of business in 1997. The TR-107 could scan EM radiation, temperature, and barometric pressure.

    The TR-107 is properly referred to as a true "tricorder" due to a clause in Gene Roddenberry's contracts with Desilu/Paramount dating back to the time of the Original Series. The clause specified that if any company could find a way to make one of the fictional devices actually work, then they would have the right to use the name.

    [I want to note the inner quote isn't sourced. Being fueled by the infinite energy and eye for minutiae of Star Trek fans, Memory Alpha is usually very reliable.]

    • I remember this. It was a $500 digital thermometer, barometer and it came with an instruction manual on CD, which was huge at the time. I wonder how many D-Cells in ran on.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Yeah, I remember that. It was featured in several Star Trek magazines (including the TV Guide special edition) of the day.

        Was definitely interesting - they apparently designed it for farmers (a number of whom were trekkies).

        Was such a pity that when I could afford one, they went out of business.

        And it was called a Mark I specifically because of its limitations - given I think the one on TNG was Mark III or Mark IV.

        I wonder how much these are on eBay....

    • by dissy (172727)

      The first "real-world" tricorder was developed by a Canadian company called the Vital Technologies Corporation in 1996. The scanner was called the TR-107 Mark 1; Vital Technologies sold 10,000 of them before going out of business in 1997. The TR-107 could scan EM radiation, temperature, and barometric pressure.

      http://treknostalgia.blogspot.com/2009/04/trek-tech-tricorder-mark-1.html [blogspot.com]

      More detailed description plus larger pictures of the device, even the back of the box.

      Sure looks like one expensive but awesome toy!

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      The TR-107 could scan EM radiation, temperature, and barometric pressure.

      Ok. Scanning EM I can understand. Scanning temperature is a little harder, but IR sensors and bolometers do allow this.

      How do you scan barometric pressure? It's trivial to measure it where you are, but how do you know what it is "over there"?

  • by steveha (103154) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @09:46PM (#39504043) Homepage

    Most of the comments posted so far have been jokes. But I think this is great.

    I would have very much loved to have one of these when I was taking science classes in high school. Heck, I'd love to have one now.

    The biggest flaw is that this is an expensive piece of custom equipment. No criticism of Dr. Jansen intended; he made the gadget he wanted to have. But I would like to see a design that is less expensive and mass-produced, that has just the sensors in a sort of cradle; you would put a smart phone into the cradle and plug in by USB. The cradle might need to contain a battery (I'm not sure how much current a smartphone micro-USB port can source).

    It would be more elegant if it used something like the iPhone's docking connector, but Apple charges money to use that thing, and on Android there is no similar standard. Just using USB would seem to offer the widest compatibility.

    Since the CPU needs are low, you should be able to use phones from 2+ years ago. When people upgrade to new phones they often have a surplus older phone, and maybe they will donate the older phone to the high school science program. Or if you just want one for yourself, you could buy something from eBay or Craigs List.

    This makes me think back to when the Palm PDA was new. The Palm had a serial port on the bottom, and there were sensor packages you could get to plug in to it. I read about a high school science teacher taking his class on a field trip, and they used pH and temperature sensors to measure a wetlands.

    Back when I carried around a Handspring Visor, I always wanted a Springboard module with a Volt/Ohm meter and probes; and another one with thermometer and such. There really was one with a magnetic compass, and I think there was at least one with a GPS receiver in it.

    steveha

    • Exactly my thought when I saw the Android Tricorder- this would be a neat start if we had better sensors on the system.

    • The biggest flaw is that this is an expensive piece of custom equipment. No criticism of Dr. Jansen intended; he made the gadget he wanted to have. But I would like to see a design that is less expensive and mass-produced

      Dr. Jansen agrees with you. From the Mark 2 Design Philosophy [tricorderproject.org] section:

      Accessibility (cost): "To create something that was as inexpensive as possible, so that people might easily have access to them without having to worry about the cost".
      Comment :: This is something I don't feel I did ver

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Back when I carried around a Handspring Visor, I always wanted a Springboard module with a Volt/Ohm meter and probes; and another one with thermometer and such. There really was one with a magnetic compass, and I think there was at least one with a GPS receiver in it.

      Ditto. However, what would make the most sense today would be to sell bluetooth sensor packages. Ideally to my mind you'd sell a battery module, a communications module, and sensor modules which would stack together and lock in place securely so that you could wave it around in the manner of a medical tricorder while you regarded the output on your small handheld device.

      I don't see any reason you couldn't put a webserver on it and deliver the data via well-structured HTML output, which would make it entirel

      • by steveha (103154)

        I love the idea of using Bluetooth for the sensors. Does Bluetooth pose extra problems though? Licensing, certification, RF interference?

        Rather than delivering the data as HTML, I would suggest JSON. JSON is very widely supported, and it is so simple that it doesn't have compatibility problems. You could do a REST interface, but web servers are not really suited to continuous streams of data. I think it would be better to just have a device use the web interface to request a socket and then stream the

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I love the idea of using Bluetooth for the sensors. Does Bluetooth pose extra problems though? Licensing, certification, RF interference?

          probably. makes sense to offer a USB-wired one, too. but it's just the one module which has to be certified...

  • Great work, thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wreakyhavoc (1045750) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @09:58PM (#39504147)
    This is the DIY, open source version. Kinda clunky, but open and accessible. He's obviously a proponent of accessible education, a welcome sentiment.

    The Apple/Nokia/Samsung version will be flip-phone configuration, no user serviceable or accessible parts, locked down and impossible to open up without destroying. It will feature multiple wireless protocols, wireless probes and accessories. It will not be upgradeable, and will be created as a designed obsolescence, throw away device. While you use it to explore the world around you, it will be gathering all your data to explore and categorize you.

    It will also be backed by a war chest of patents used to deny the populace or small businesses from creating their own cheap, open, accessible versions.

    Scoff all you like, but enjoy this handiwork while you still can. Or at least applaud.
  • Oh wait, not anymore, thanks CBS.

    Also, that 10-bit per channel RGB colour analyser made me cry a little bit. It's 2012 and the GIMP still can't do that properly.

  • I've got a couple of multimeters that look like tricorders:

    Metrix MTX3283 [alpha-electronics.com]

    Designed so you can operate it with one hand they're very nice and easy to use, and expensive, but I got my two off eBay for a fraction of the new cost.
  • I bet someone will convert it in to a pokedex.

  • by wreakyhavoc (1045750) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @01:55AM (#39505457)
    Medical health professionals are already reporting that many patients are able to do self diagnosis with the help of 'net research. "They come to us for confirmation of what they've already figured out."

    Given the lack of access to quality health care in even 1st world societies, imagine the empowerment to diagnose biomedical ailments at the molecular level from commonly available handheld devices at home. http://www.nano.org.uk/news/1705 [nano.org.uk]

    The ability to do real-time PCR(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymerase_chain_reaction), immunoassays to detect bacteria, viruses and cancers based on antigen-antibody reactions, dielectrophoresis, and other techniques would have an immense impact on general human health and treatment in the hands of qualified health professionals and citizens.

    Doctors working in third world and inaccessible regions would have an incalculable leg up, not having to wait for non-existent sample testing.

    I don't see this as a project for basement tinkerers, but the technology is coming along. Health care costs are threating to overwhelm world economies as populations burgeon and life expectancies increase.

    I'll leave it to the other cynics to burst this bubble. I'd like to think there are still some optimistic dreamers out there. Let's hear some feedback from some of those, please.
    • That's about what it amounts to, and it's a good thing. Having someone who sees your type of ailment dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times a year re-read your symptoms is a great check to make sure that you're on track. It keeps the physicians time cost down, too, as you've identified a bunch of factors and are ready with answers when they ask.

      Given the average ability of a human, it's a good idea to have someone trained in a specialty do a sanity check. I'm a professional in another field, and sometime

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      This guy is working towards the end goal, and deserves credit.

      Sure, its all 'off the shelf' sensors, but that is the entire point, that technology has advanced to the point he can do it without inventing new sensors.

  • They may be in violation of US Patent# 2482773:
    "Detection of Emanations From Materials and Measurement of Volumes Thereof". Also known as the "Hieronymous Machine". It pre-dates Star Trek by quite a bit.

  • Shut up and take my money!!!!!

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