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article imageTricorders not SciFi Anymore

By Gar Swaffar     May 1, 2008 in Health
Beam me down Scotty, and send Bones as soon as he gets to the transporter room. The Star Trek Tricorder may have seen it's first actual working model being produced recently. The highly portable device is using technology from the cell phone industry.
The connection to a cell phone allows a handheld scanner to be linked to a high powered processor at a remote location. As a result the machine which has been a bulky contraption consisting of a scanner, processor and video monitor fits easily in the hand, although not as small as the ones used in the old Sci-Fi series Star Trek, at least not yet they aren't.
In addition to offering medical scans in developing nations, the devices "could find their way in ambulances, or rural clinics," said Boris Rubinsky, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
The highly portable device is made using off-the-shelf technology from the cell phone industry, and is capable of producing astoundingly detailed images. The scanner portion of the unit can be carried to locations where medical scanning technology is unlikely to ever make an appearance, such as the Australian outback or developing nations without the ability to place scanners in each far flung village. The scanner can then be linked via a cell phone to a centralized remote location processor which is the heart and brain of the computer you are using right now, the processor interprets instructions.
The unit was tested on a container made to simulate a human breast, filled with a gel and a simulated tumor material. The scanner, cell phone and remote processor did precisely the job it was designed to do. It sent a picture of the simulation and allowed for a 'diagnosis' to take place at a distance.
The size of the data in the study was less than that of a one sentence text message, about six kilobytes. The machine also lends itself to a hookup with a portable ultrasound scanner.
The researchers in this case may have actually found a way to bring medical imaging to a huge underserved population around the world. The benefits of this discovery will be one which allows even the poorest villages to have the results of diagnostic imaging in a way that may save uncounted lives in the future.
The scanners will likely have even greater implications on the medical services in the developed nations, allowing paramedic crews to send images directly to a hospital and surgeons, to allow for detailed diagnosis of an auto accident victim even before they reach the hospital.
Now, Beam me up Scotty.
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