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It’s a Tricorder Jim, but not as we know it..!

A spin-off company from Tel Aviv University, Unispectral Technologies, promises to unveil their prototype ‘Tricorder’ this month. They claim to have developed very powerful optical lens and image processing software that can transform a smartphone into a hyperspectral sensor. The system works by vastly improving the resolution, not only to give better images but also allowing the camera to break down the chemical composition of objects – from a distance!

As well as the headline grabbing hyperspectral possibilities, this patented technology also boasts four times image resolution and two times low light level capabilities. Pretty impressive stuff.

Unispectral is in talks with several companies – including smartphone manufacturers – with regard to the crucial ‘back office’ requirements. It is envisioned that once an image is acquired (still or moving) it is sent to a third party ‘library’ to analyse the chemical compounds and their concentrations. This data is then sent back to the device. 'The optical element acts as a tuneable filter and the software - an image fusion library - would support this new component and extract all the relevant information from the image,' said Professor David Mendlovic at Tel Aviv University.

The technology has many possible applications. Apart from medical, wouldn’t it be great to be able to identify fake substances, or – for allergy sufferers – whether there really are peanuts in that cake! My only slight concern is if you watch the promotional video you’ll find the percentages don’t add up. Hmm.

In the meantime, the ‘Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize’ is now in the design and build/consumer testing stages with the winner to be announced next year. We’ll keep you posted. It’s good to see all of these missions to boldly go…

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