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Cradle attachment turns Apple's iPhone into handheld biosensor

post #1 of 11
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Demonstrating again the versatility of the device, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a cradle and app that turns Apple's iPhone into a powerful biosensor in the vein of Star Trek's fabled tricorders.



By aligning a series of lenses and filters with the iPhone's camera, the researchers have made Apple's bestselling smartphone capable of detecting a wide range of toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses, and other molecules. In total, the attachment contains roughly $200 worth of components, but it is comparable in power to hefty and expensive laboratory equipment, and its handheld nature makes for easy transportation, according to the University of Illinois' press release (via Engadget).

The researchers believe the device could see a wide range of uses, from mapping the spread of pathogens to providing inexpensive medical diagnostic tests in the field or contamination checks in the food processing chain.

"Smartphones are making a big impact on our society," research team leader Brian Cunningham said. "And they have really powerful computing capability and imaging. A lot of medical conditions might be monitored very inexpensively and non-invasively using mobile platforms like phones."

The biosensor leverages a photonic crystal, which is somewhat like a mirror that reflects only one wavelength of light. Biological elements attaching to the photonic crystal will cause the reflected color to shift to a longer wavelength, allowing for detection of pathogens, proteins, cells, DNA and more.

The team has already demonstrated the device in work sensing an immune system protein, but they say it can be calibrated to detect any type of biological molecule or cell type. The team is also working on tests that can detect toxins in harvested corn and soybeans.

The group received a grant from the National Science Foundation aimed at expanding the applications of their sensor. They are also working to develop tests that can monitor iron and vitamin A deficiencies in expecting mothers and children. A version of the sensor for Android phones is also said to be in the works.

Doctors and researchers around the world are much enamored of Apple's popular smartphone, and they continually find a range of applications for the device, with some going so far as to call it "the future of medicine." As the iPhone becomes increasingly popular in the field of medicine, at least, it is running up against some regulatory obstacles, as the increasing power and applicability of the handheld computer brings it into conflict with existing standards on what can be used for which medical purposes.
post #2 of 11
Gee... If only Apple were smart enough to do this with something that was always wrapped around your wrist....
Nah.
post #3 of 11
Shining a light on a sample slide it measures if the reflected light falls within certain limits to determine if there are toxins or deficiencies (apparently). Not exactly Star Trek tricorder functions, but quite impressive nonetheless.
Edited by SpamSandwich - 5/26/13 at 5:55pm

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post #4 of 11
Pffff. IDevices are toys. /s

Cool stuff.
post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Shining a light on a sample slide it measures if the reflected light falls within certain limits to determine if there are toxins or deficiencies (apparently). Not exactly Star Trek tricorder functions, but quite impressive nonetheless.

But the tricorders are a lot bigger though:
Starfleet tricorder, 2233

Starfleet tricorder, 2268

A tricorder in use aboard the refit Enterprise in the 2270s

One tricorder option during the 2280s

The TR-560 in 2365

The TR-580 in 2370

Data with a TR-580 he nicknamed Mr. Tricorder

A red tricorder in 2371

Medical TR-580 in 2369

The TR-590 Tricorder X

The darker cased TR-590 tricorder in 2378

TR-590 medical tricorder in 2378

The Starfleet tricorder in 2379
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post #6 of 11

Good use of the phone's camera.

post #7 of 11
Come on you tech folks, who is going to first with a replicator app or a beam me up app...?
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

But the tricorders are a lot bigger though:

 

Ah, a Tricorder fan.

 

I wonder what the original Mark I Tricorders are going for on eBay?  You know the one I mean: the TR-107 made by Vital Technologies around 1996 or so.  It had a colorimeter, thermometer, magnetometer, barometer.

 

Perhaps they need another hundred years to pick up in price :)   

 

I suspect that Tricorder hero props go for more money.

 

--

 

Speaking of sensors, I read that the Galaxy S4 includes not only the usual accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer ... but also a thermometer, barometer (pressure) and hygrometer (moisture), so it can be used as a weather station.  (What, no wind speed meter?)

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

 

Ah, a Tricorder fan.

 

I wonder what the original Mark I Tricorders are going for on eBay?  You know the one I mean: the TR-107 made by Vital Technologies around 1996 or so.  It had a colorimeter, thermometer, magnetometer, barometer.

 

Perhaps they need another hundred years to pick up in price :)   

 

I suspect that Tricorder hero props go for more money.

 

--

 

Speaking of sensors, I read that the Galaxy S4 includes not only the usual accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer ... but also a thermometer, barometer (pressure) and hygrometer (moisture), so it can be used as a weather station.  (What, no wind speed meter?)

 

I wouldn't mind getting my mitts on one of those new prop phasers from the rebooted Star Trek universe.

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post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

But the tricorders are a lot bigger though:

Ah, a Tricorder fan.

Actually not, but the first hit for that search gave me all those pics on a single webpage, so easy Cmd-C Cmd-V.

Quote:
Speaking of sensors, I read that the Galaxy S4 includes not only the usual accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer ... but also a thermometer, barometer (pressure) and hygrometer (moisture), so it can be used as a weather station.  (What, no wind speed meter?)

I use a Garmin for my road bike, got the most expensive one, but a thermometer is a $25 add-on device. The built-in barometer gives varying results ( I live +2 meters and on other days -18 meters). I wonder if there's a solid test report out there for these S4 built-in sensors?
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post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I use a Garmin for my road bike, got the most expensive one, but a thermometer is a $25 add-on device. The built-in barometer gives varying results ( I live +2 meters and on other days -18 meters). 

 

Yeah, as you know, a barometer is no good for altitude unless it has a reference (starting height or local pressure) to work from.

 

Quote:
I wonder if there's a solid test report out there for these S4 built-in sensors?

 

Good Q.  Reportedly the temperature sensor is affected by phone heat, which points out a need for a local reference point to sync to.  Perhaps needs another one on the battery to measure its heat output.

 

So maybe a remote sensor makes more sense (pun?) at times.  Like that Kickstarter project, the Bluetooth based Node sensor, with temp, pressure, gas, etc options.  Even looked a bit like a Tricorder sensor:

 

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