By March 2014, scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in California hope to begin shipping their home health “tricorder” to customers around the world. In the meantime, they need your help.
The researchers have lunched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign and have already more than doubled their requested donations. They hope to get their tricorder prototype, the Scanadu Scout, into the hands of consumers who can then opt-into clinical studies of the device, which is designed to help patients monitor their vital signs at home.
The data gathered during these trials will help Scanadu bring the Scout to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for market approval as a medical device.
The Scout is an instrument about the size of a deck of cards that reads your pulse transit time, heart rate, electrical heart activity, temperature, heart rate variability, and blood oxygen level when pressed to your temple for 10 seconds. It sends this information to your smartphone where it can be stored and tracked over time. The device is projected to cost less that $150.
Two other forthcoming Scanadu products, ScanaFlo and ScanaFlu, contain paper swatches that can easily diagnose common and some not-so-common problems. In the case of ScanaFlo, a urine sample on the strip can detect pregnancy complications, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure, and urinary tract infections. When spit on, the ScanaFlu can detect strep A, influenza A and B, adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Again, the information is processed through your smartphone, giving you quick access to data previously available only from a lab in what the company calls a “healthfeed.”
“Consumers don’t have the tools they need to monitor their health and make informed decisions about when they’re actually sick and need to see a doctor,” Walter de Brouwer, founder and CEO of Scanadu, said in a press release. “We want to empower consumers to take control of their health and give them direct access to their personal healthfeed.”
The Scanadu team plans to enter the Scout in the prestigious Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition, which is endorsed by all five captains from the Star Trek TV series. The top prize of $10 million will go to the team whose device most accurately diagnoses 15 conditions across 30 individuals and presents the information in a user-friendly format.
The Scanadu tricorders, though inspiring and perhaps even revolutionary, cannot replace a doctor’s expertise. But they will mean big changes for battlefield medics, clinic workers in developing nations, and exhausted parents who just want to know whether their child has a cold or something more.
The future is here, and can help us all follow Spock's mantra: “live long and prosper.”