Thumb-sized scanner tells you what things are made of

Credit: SCiO

Sure to be a standard of all CSI kits of the future, Kickstarter startup SCiO has come up with a tiny Star Trek tricorder-like spectrometer that reveals the molecular make-up of materials, both organic and not.

In practical terms for dieters, just pointing SCiO at food reveals its ripeness, number of calories and nutritional value. You'll be able to scan plastics to ascertain their recyclability, home brewers will be able to more accurately monitor alcohol levels, detect what's in that pill your doctor prescribed, what's in those cosmetics, how healthy your plants or potting soil are, and discern the difference between a diamond and zirconium, fake from real leather, and real from counterfeit cash.

Here's what a working prototype looks like right now. The current SCiO spectrometer sensor scanner (left) and the intended final version (right):

The sensor sends the scanned data to your smartphone, from there to SCiO's servers, then back to your smartphone in a matter of seconds. If your scan stumps SCiO, you'll even be able to upload unknown substances to the company's matter database. Developers will be able to get an SDK to create their own molecular sensing apps.

SCiO's inventors have managed to shrink down the spectrophotometry circuitry key to its infrared optical spectroscopy sensor to a thumb-sized scanner, and hope to make it even smaller by the time it's ready to go on sale later this year at the early Kickstarter adopter price of $199.

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