Medical tricorders: The dream of the medical tricorder | The Economist
The dream of the medical tricorder
Medical technology: The hand-held diagnostic devices seen on “Star Trek” are inspiring a host of medical add-ons for smartphones
Dec 1st 2012 | from the print edition
WHEN aliens seize and torture Dr McCoy in “The Empath”, an episode of the science-fiction series “Star Trek”, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock rush to his aid. They are able to assess his condition in seconds with the help of a medical tricorder—a hand-held computer with a detachable sensor that is normally used by Dr McCoy himself to diagnose others. A quick scan with the tricorder indicates that he suffers from “severe heart damage; signs of congestion in both lungs; evidence of massive circulatory collapse”.
Along with teleportation, speech-driven computers and hand-held wireless communicators that flip open, the medical tricorder was one of many imaginary future technologies featured in “Star Trek”. Ever since, researchers have dreamed of developing a hand-held medical scanner that can take readings from a patient and then diagnose various conditions. Now, nearly five decades after “Star Trek” made its debut in 1966, the dream is finally edging closer to reality.