Last year we found out about TellSpec, a portable scanner that can identify the composition of food as well as provide nutritional data. A company called ConsumerPhysics is raising funds for SCiO, which works similarly to TellSpec but seems to be more versatile. Aside from analyzing edibles, SCiO can also tell you more about medicine and plants.
SCiO is a near-infrared spectrometer. I don’t know if TellSpec uses similar technology, but both devices are used in the same way; SCiO also needs a mobile device and an Internet connection to work. You point it at the item you want to know more about, and it will scan and send its findings to ConsumerPhysics’ database for identification. The information will then be relayed back to your mobile device. Here’s a demo of SCiO’s prototype:
ConsumerPhysics claims that SCiO’s capabilities will be upgraded in two ways. First, users will help enrich the database by scanning and uploading samples, kind of like a Wikipedia of matter. Second, it appears that SCiO’s functions can be diversified on the software end. ConsumerPhysics says that it will release more apps in the future so that SCiO can be used to identify more objects: “[F]or example in the future you can use SCiO to measure properties of cosmetics, clothes, flora, soil, jewels and precious stones, leather, rubber, oils, plastics, and even your pet!”
Pledge at least $199 (USD) on Kickstarter to receive a SCiO molecular sensor as a reward. I’m sure a lot of folks will treat it as a tiny Captain Obvious – “Let’s scan this slice of pizza! It says pizza! Yeah!” – and then forget about it once the novelty wears off. But it also has a lot of potential for helping people – especially children – educate themselves voluntarily and at their own pace. And that’s always a good thing.