CBS Announces Functional Tricorder Replica For 2021

It’s taken 54 years, but soon, you’ll finally be able to buy a fully-functional version of the tricorder from Star Trek. Announced on the official website for the legendary sci-fi franchise, the replica will be built by The Wand Company, who’ve previously produced a number of high-quality official Star Trek props as well as replicas for Doctor Who and the Fallout game series.

Admittedly, we’re not sure what a “fully-functional tricorder” actually is, mainly because the various on-screen functions of the device were largely driven by whatever bind Kirk and Spock managed to find themselves in that week. But the announcement mentions the ability to scan radio frequencies, pull in dynamic data from environmental sensors, and record audio. The teaser video after the break doesn’t give us any more concrete information than the announcement, but it does seem to confirm that we’ll be viewing said data on the device’s iconic flip-up display.

Now as the regular Hackaday reader knows, fans have been building extremely impressive “functional” tricorders for some time now. Unlike the sleek 24th century versions seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the original tricorder prop was rather clunky and offers plenty of internal volume for modern goodies. Cramming a Raspberry Pi, LCD, and a bunch of sensors into an inert replica is a relatively approachable project. So it will be interesting to see how the official version stacks up to what’s already been done by intrepid hackers and makers.

The official tricorder won’t be available until summer of 2021, but you can sign up to be notified when it’s your turn to beam one up. While the $250 USD sticker price might keep the more casual Trekkers at bay, it’s actually a bit cheaper than we would have assumed given the amount of time and money we’ve seen fans put into their own builds.

[Thanks to NeoTechni for the tip.]

59 thoughts on “CBS Announces Functional Tricorder Replica For 2021

  1. Hmmm, I mean, couldn’t the tricorder also pull in medical data, or was that just the medical variant? I don’t think we’ve quite reached the 24th century in terms of being able to wave a wand at someone and get all their medical details.

      1. “The tablet allows doctors to access patient information from anywhere, making it easier to discuss with patients their health status.”

        “The tablet allows doctors to access the phone book from anywhere, making it easier to discuss with patients their health status.”

        Sirriusly Dude? The tablet doesn’t get data from the patient in real time, it grabs it from a database. Ed Asner is not impressed.

    1. Yes, technically that would be considered a medical tricorder which had additional hardware and wand in the bottom “expansion bay” for scanning humans. This is presumably meant to be a geological tricorder, which was used by the away team for scanning the environment when they beamed down.

    2. There was a distinct difference as mentinoed by the EMH in Voyager’s opening season when activated and asking for a tricorder, being handed one and thusly admonishing the ensign because it wasn’t a medical tricorder.

        1. Slowlyly describes not an object’s speed but it’s rate of acceleration. It is accelerating slowly.

          Similarly slowlylyly describes an object whose rate of acceleration is slowly accelerating.

          I hope that now you can figure out what slowlylylyly means.

          Didn’t you ever take Calculus?

  2. ” But the announcement mentions the ability to scan radio frequencies, pull in dynamic data from environmental sensors, and record audio.”

    So… less than the cell phone already in my pocket.
    The future is now and it far exceeds the imagination of yesteryear.

    1. Can you please provide the details on the DNA scanning mechanism in your telephone and tell us how it exceeds the capabilities of the Star Trek tricorder which can detect pathogens in a patient’s blood? Maybe you can tell us where you bought your DNA scanning phone?

      1. I suspect a misunderstanding.
        I was comparing the announced replica’s functionality to my cell phone – not the on-screen device that had capabilities that varied with plot.

        1. Yes. Before you can have a “real” tricorder, you have to define it. I can’t say I got much detail from the show, it always seemed vaguely, except when needed for a plot point. I have no idea what three things it records, or whefe the name came c om.

          Maybe the Star Trek technical manual.has details, but it came after the series, and given that the schematic in there for the communicator is for a cheap 27MHz walkie talkie, you can’t rely on it for details.

          1. Who knows if “Tricorder” even means anything, maybe it was a brand name a hundred years ago for some earlier version that really did have only three sensors.

            I think a GCMS, ultra high sensitivity magnetometer, thermal camera, and Raman spectrometer, plus an audio and RF spectrum analyzer and a Walabot style through the walls radar could do a good portion of the stuff the onscreen one does, if you could somehow fit it all in a handheld.

    2. I would also like to see the molecular scanner in your phone, the one in the Star Trek tricorder can determine percentage mineral content in ore samples without any physical contact.

      1. I saw an episode of Time Team where a dude had a widget a bit like that, determined metal content of a lump of slag by holding it to it. Forgotten what method it used though, maybe X-ray backscattering, unsure. I think it was the episode where they were doing industrial archaeology of a buried valley in Wales.

        1. Quite likely it was what’s known as an “XRF Gun”, where the XRF stands for “x-ray fluorescence”. It uses an x-ray emitter to get the atoms in a sample riled up until they kick out x-rays of their own, then looks at the properties of the re-emitted (fluorescent) x-rays to figure out what sort of atoms they were.

          I think backscatter refers specifically to reflected x-rays, so XRF is not backscatter, but it’s similar in the sense that the relevant x-rays are coming back at you.

          Disappointingly, XRF guns usually look a lot more like handheld barcode scanners (like the ones used by store cashiers) than tricorders.

      1. Spock did NOT attach a TV to his tricorder in “City on the Edge of Forever.”

        The tricorder has a display, and he used it.

        Spock built an external memory system so that he could slow down playback of the very quickly moving scenes recorded as Mccoy jumped through the “Guardian of Forever” gate. Spock needed to find the exact moment into which Mccoy jumped.

        1. That would have been great to see him build a televisor and connect it to that. The giant spinning wheel would have really added something to the “out of placeness” of their tabletop workshop while still being believably constructed from period available parts. They would have just had to write into the script that the original display did not survive the trip or something. Maybe it was cracked when they stepped into the street not understanding to watch for cars.

          Actually getting enough resolution that way to be useful though would be pure sci-fi.

    3. In the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode, McCoy points a tricorder at a tribble and can see that it is pregnant and that it is malnourished, again please provide the details of the sensors in your phone that provide this functionality.

  3. Ok X, you’ve proved yourself to be an ardent “Trek” fan. But, you’re wrong about how Spock used his tricorder in “The City On The Edge Of Forever”. He didn’t “attach a television to his tricorder”. He used the circuitry he built to enable viewing The Guardian’s data on the tricorder’s built-in screen. Now, let it go.

    I hope the people who sell this replica provide some advice on the proper way to hold the thing.

  4. There was the Moonblink Tricorder app for Android, using an LCARS style interface. It could display data from whatever sensors were in the phone. Upon finding out about it CBS decided to be stupid and told the guy who was working on it to stop, when they should’ve offered to hire him to continue development of it as “The Official Star Trek Tricorder App”. Last version was 5.12 Hit the download link here. It’ll say it’s 404 but you’ll still get the APK file https://web.archive.org/web/20121121054305/http://www.freeware4android.net/motorola-defy-device-1660/gps-tag/tricorder-get-11974.html

    Since then there are medical apps that can use a phone’s camera and flash LED to measure pulse and blood oxygen levels, same principle as any optical pulse oximeter. Somehow they can also measure blood pressure in a fingertip using the LED and camera and do it quite accurately. I’ve compared to a conventional sphygmomanometer and the phone app results are usually quite close.

    Non-contact methods of pulse oximetry and blood pressure reading are in development https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4574660/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31946011/

    So a device an EMT can just point at a person and get readings good enough to tell if the person has something non-obviously critical going on is going to be coming along pretty soon.

    1. > Somehow they can also measure blood pressure in a fingertip using the LED and camera and do it quite accurately.

      One of those claims is true.

      >I’ve compared to a conventional sphygmomanometer and the phone app results are usually quite close.

      The optical system measures the volume change of the veins by measuring the light reflectance. The volume change is proportional to the difference between diastolic and systolic pressure, but the sensor has no way of knowing the absolute pressure because the DC offset of the signal varies. By making some educated guesses, like guessing that your diastolic pressure is somewhere between 60 – 90 mmhg, it usually gets it somewhere close.

      My cheap smartwatch for example gives a higher reading when my hand is pointing up than down, because the blood drains away from the veins by gravity and that increases the signal amplitude. It’s still guessing that the diastolic pressure is in the normal range, so it starts to claim that I have high systolic pressure. When I hang my arm low, the veins fill up with blood and the difference in volume gets less, so the watch reports normal blood pressure. It’s been calibrated that way.

      1. I just took some measurements as described. Hand up 149/79. Hand down 121/74. Hand horizontal and watch face level jumps between 120/74 and 141/84

        That’s because the watch is trying to compensate using its accelerometer to switch between different calibrations. When my hand is on the table, a slight tilt of the wrist makes the watch think I’m holding my hand up or down, therefore whether I have normal blood pressure or whether I should see a doctor. This is why it says on the box “Not medical grade.”

        The better systems use additional data, like a chest strap, to measure the difference in time it takes for the pulse to reach your wrist. This gives an overall resistance to flow, which can help fix the relative change in volume to an absolute blood pressure.

        1. Invalid. If you want to have a pretense of being scientific about it, you have to get someone else to hold your arm up. Tensed muscles raise your blood pressure.

    1. Is it thermal? Is it Van Ecking their neural functions? Are they upwind and it’s an exhaled CO2 detector? Is it the bedbug on a microphone the US was reported to use in Vietnam?

      1. And a by the way, I’m tossing around ideas, ways to approach, promising avenues for implementation of ; ultrasonic critter detectors from ultrasonic noise emitted when stepping on grass, sand, moving through brush etc.. (Windy days probably blind you though) In theory, sensitive detectors, stereo separation, triangulation, done, but a whole lot of banging your head against sensitivity vs noise, signal processing and signal recognition in the middle.

    2. I love Star Trek, but it does irritate that their “life signs” only ever seems to mean animals. Sometimes it only means intelligent animals. As though they’re detecting “THINK-RAYS” or something.

      1. Human brains have higher neurological activity than chimp brains, so yeah, think ray intensity is plausible method of telling how potentially smart something is. Any electrical activity is sending out tiny pulses of RF, so just because we haven’t made high enough definition sensor arrays to sort them out yet, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

  5. I could probably spend all day thinking of different kinds of sensors that one could throw into a box with a RasPi and call it a tricorder. It would make a great project that would be appreciated by the average HaD reader. I can’t imagine what this could possibly be though.

    So, it scans RF? Is it a general purpose SDR in a box marketed by a mainstream television broadcaster? Maybe in an alternate reality that is much geekier than this one.

    I imagine running to the door to snatch it from the delivery person, racing to the bathroom to get a moment of privacy, Ignoring the desperate please of a family member who needs to pee. Turning the shiny new machine on and being greeted with nothing but the display blinking B̶e̶ ̶s̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶r̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶O̶v̶a̶l̶t̶i̶n̶e̶ Be sure to subscribe to CBS.

    1. Heh, okay Ralphie… I did read the linked site and for 3/4 of the way through I thought “functional” really meant it was just going to have the same random flashy lights, but since they mentioned sensors etc, it does look like it might do a bit more than that.

  6. I’m confused, this is a top of the line replica, REPLICA of the Star Trek tri-Corder, why are you all comparing it to a real medical device, it’s just a toy, with that off my chest, I’m so excited to order one , I have the phaser and communicator (which is B.A. ) and I can’t wait for this to be available, a big thank you to the techs at the wand co. For the amazing props they produce.

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