Recently, there's a lot of talk about creating something similar to Star Trek's tricorder, a handheld device used for sensor scanning and analyzing and recording data. On the TV series, the tricorder is also often used to detect the chemical composition of people and objects.

Israeli company Unispectral plans on bringing us one step closer to seeing the tricorder become reality, thanks to its new technology that works with your smartphone to give it hyperspectral sensor functionality, which means that you can image something with your phone and figure out its exact chemical composition.

Unispectral is working on new imaging technology that increases smartphone camera resolution, along with improving camera performance. The hyperspectral sensor comes courtesy of a separate optical filter that fits over your smartphone's lens. This allows the lens to take in more light, allowing for better zoom capabilities.

However, it's the hyperspectral sensor function that turns your phone into a tricorder, allowing you to detect the hyperspectral signature of any object. Basically, when exposed to spectrum analysis, certain colors denote the presence of certain chemical compounds. The camera works by taking a high-resolution image, which then goes to a third-party for analysis. That third-party then sends the results of the analysis back to the phone.

However, Unispectral does not yet have a third-party to handle the analysis part of their technology yet, but they are reportedly in talks with companies about their technology, including discussions about the data analysis.

Something like this could be handy, particularly after the recent scandal in China that left many consumers buying fake milk at the grocery store. Imagine being able to detect the chemical composition of milk before you buy it, knowing if it is actually milk, or something else. A phone with this capability could also help detect toxins in food, perhaps pesticides on produce, and even possibly allow us to see when foods have started going bad.

Some hyperspectral imaging can help detect things like gas leaks, as well as detect explosives. Putting that capability on something that is already widely available and extremely mobile could do everything from save lives to making airport security faster and more efficient.

Meanwhile, other companies have released plans to develop their own versions of the Star Trek tricorder, including a recent successful Kickstarter campaign for the Scanadu Scout device that can measure health vitals, such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.

[Photo Credit: Paramount Television]

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