The Berkeley Tricorder Is Now Open Source!

[Reza Naima] has just released the designs for his Berkeley Tricorder for the public to use. He’s been designing it since 2007 as his thesis work for his PhD, and since he’s done now (Congrats!), he decided to let it grow by making it open source!

We covered it almost 7 years ago now when it was in its first prototype form, and it has come a long way since then. The latest version features an electromyogram (EMG), an electrocardiograph (ECG), a bioimpedance spectrometer, a pulse oximeter, an accelerometer, and all the data is recorded to a micro SD card or sent via bluetooth to a tablet or smart phone for data visualization.

He’s released it in hopes that other researchers can utilize the hardware in their own research, hopefully springing up a community of people interested in non-invasive health monitoring. With any luck, the development of the Berkeley Tricorder will continue, and maybe some day, can truly live up to its name!

Unfortunately there’s no new video showing off the latest iteration, but we’ve attached the original video after the break, which gives a good narrative on the device by [Reza] himself.


32 thoughts on “The Berkeley Tricorder Is Now Open Source!

    1. A Tricoder is the non invasive medical diagnosis device that Dr. Bones on the original Star Trek series; used to diagnose the medical condition of Patients. The device was no doubt used in all other Star Trek Series, but for some reason I cannot recall it’s name being stated.

  1. I wonder how much medical feedback they’ve got on this? To find out what medics need, more than what gadgets are available. Tho of course having it certified would bring costs out of the scale of the project, I’d think.

  2. I’m disappointed to see a lack of isolation on the power supply, as I hope people know that it would be dangerous to use while charging…and lacking that supply prevents it from being run continuously.

    1. Not any more than any other USB device. Just don’t use a questionable power supply with it and it would be fine. If you really don’t trust any mains adapter, a cheap and easy way is to get one of those USB battery packs and use it to charge your Tricorder.

    2. Isolation? Why would you need isolation to charge this thing from a 5V USB connection which can source no more than 500mA? The thing it’s plugged into supplying power via USB surely has whatever isolation is needed for safety.

      1. The Y capacitor on most USB supplies (or laptop supplies) is really really not enough isolation for something hooked to electrodes hooked to a person (especially near the heart). Never mind what happens when you’re using a shitty chinese supply that put a plain ceramic cap in place of a proper Y cap.

        1. No more of a problem than with any other USB device that has exposed metal parts. Use a trusted good quality adapter or if that’s still not enough (or it’s causing interference), just use one of those USB battery packs.

        2. The Y caps are not for isolation. They are supposed to let some of the
          common mode current to the Earth ground. This reduces the conductive EMC
          flowing back to the AC outlet. There is also a Y cap connected between
          the ground secondary side to the Earth ground for leakage currents.

          The problem is these days, there are no longer Earth Ground connections
          on wall warts. That current would now flow through that Y cap onto
          secondary side. So if you are the person that is wired to is somehow
          touches Earth Ground, now there is some current trying to flow into you.
          That’s the weird feeling as you touches the outer barrel of a
          laptop connector.

          Having something attached to your chest powered by such kind of
          converter is asking for trouble.

    3. The device is expected to be worn on the body, not while connected to a PC (it’s for recharge only). It’s a research device and the user is expected to know how to use it. It’s not a commercial one that has to anticipate all the ways that it can be misused. Also, there are additional caps/resistors between the various electrodes and the electronics that help further isolate.

      1. Your typical $6 isolated switchers do not usually come double insulated
        nor safety certified for medical use.

        Use RF charging and Bluetooth/Wifi link so the device is not connected.
        (assuming that they don’t increase the noise floor as the operating
        frequency is well above the bandwidth your measurement)

  3. I’m not sure what about this took years to make. I’m building a tricorder right now using microduino parts and it’s going to have more sensors than this. I’m actually putting it in a playmates tricorder toy that I found. Stay tuned.

    1. You can make a house by propping up a cardboard box and playing around with a pair of scissors. But it won’t really be a house. For this tricorder to be useful it has to be precise. Are your sensors precise? Combined? :)

    2. There are a lot of subtleties with the design that required a long iterative process. Each sensor took multiple revisions to get it to work well within numerous constraints. There is a lot of secret sauce in there that I’ve released to the public.

      1. This is a cool project! Thanks for posting it, and thanks for the hard work!

        Sorry about the hell you will get from the FDA as they keep you from commercializing it… Perhaps in Europe or Mexico! :-)

  4. I had a thought to use those IR mesh sensors (MLX90250?) as biospectral analysers.
    It might also work if a filter wheel was rotated through the plane of the sensor to allow multiple wavelengths in the thermal IR range to be analysed with the same sensor.

    also relevant, a single cheap sensor can provide far more useful information using this method, in fact many IR thermometers now use LED feedback of temperature to generate an X-ray like image.
    Scanning it across a subject would allow real time wound/blood loss detection through clothing.

    Not many people know this but you can often detect a broken bone by looking at each limb on an IR scanner, a break will show up brighter than the surrounding tissue due to blood pooling in the area.

  5. I’m an emergency physician and hobbiest hacker and I can see real use for something like this transmitting tracings to something like google glass. i’d use it for sure. the trick is to use this generously provided hard work and do the above at comparable cost. as soon as you apply such concepts to medicine, the cost skyrockets, typically for reasons which seem to me either greedy or somewhat paranoid.

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