The Age of the Tricorder
The medical device of the future is already here.
BY GARY BOAS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
The Star Trek television series and movies have proved remarkably prescient in anticipating future tech- nologies – from flip phones to
iPads – decades before they appeared in
everyday life. Now, nearly half a century
after the debut of the original series, the
science fiction classic featuring Captain
Kirk and the alien Mr. Spock, we are beginning to see modern-day equivalents of
another iconic Star Trek device: the tricorder.
In the series, tricorders are handheld
medical instruments used to detect, diag-
nose and treat any number of injuries or
maladies, either terrestrial or alien. The
design has evolved over the decades, but
in all cases the device is portable, requires
no external power source and provides
some sort of sensing capability.
Researchers at the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California, Irvine, have developed a handheld laser scanner to distinguish between potentially
malignant and benign tumors in the breast. The device uses diffuse optical spectroscopy imaging and a new analysis method called self-referencing differential
spectroscopy analysis. A recent Cancer Research study demonstrated the potential benefit of this method. Courtesy of Paul Kennedy.