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Open Source Tricorder
March 28, 2012 12:49 PM   Subscribe

One Tricorder per child.
posted by christopher.taylor (31 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I'm sensing a disturbing sonic disturbance underlying everything on this transmission, Mr. Spock."

"It's music, Jim, but not as we know it."
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Snark aside, cool project.
posted by yoink at 12:58 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um, I believe Nintendo already builds the Tricorder for children, called the 3DS. If you're going to geek it out and have it give magnetic readings, I want you to sell it while wearing Geordie glasses.
posted by Metro Gnome at 12:59 PM on March 28, 2012


Incoming lawsuit from Paramount in 3...2...1...
posted by egypturnash at 1:03 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This, by the way, is the link to the project's website.
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


From your link, egypturnash:
It's apparently the graphical design that's at issue, not the name. According to Wikipedia, "Gene Roddenberry's contract included a clause allowing any company able to create functioning technology to use the name". Now that GR is dead, I guess CBS believes they own swoopy curves.
So it looks like this is in the clear (and that's very cool if true about Roddenberry's contract).
posted by yoink at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


something about his voice drives me nuts and not in a good way.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins."
posted by aught at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


something about his voice drives me nuts and not in a good way.

Why do you hate Canadians, Ironmouth? ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2012


No Red Shirted Child Left Behind.
posted by bwerdmuller at 1:35 PM on March 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


I have one of these. It doesn't flip open, but it has the capability to do the same basic things. It's called an iphone.
posted by nushustu at 1:41 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your iPhone has an ultrasonic distance gauge, atmospheric readings, a magnetometer, IR detector, and is built from readily-available components using open and free blueprints? Come on now. The iPhone is a useful device but it only corresponds to the "brain" of this device.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:48 PM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


i had one of these this morning, its called an egg mcmuffin
posted by phaedon at 1:55 PM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


BlackLeotardFront:

SonarRuler app: http://itunes.apple.com/app/sonar-ruler/id324621243?mt=8

Galaxy Nexus has a barometer

They both have compasses

iPhone 4 could detect IR in the camera, but the 4S added an IR filter to the camera, but added an IR sensor to the front face of the phone for proximity.

Sure it isn't this... but smartphone tech is damn close.
posted by nutate at 2:25 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this had appeared in Star Wars, it would have been called a do-corder.
posted by R. Schlock at 3:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a neat project with an intensely annoying video. If something says "tricorder project" on it, people are going to be looking for technical specs, not squishy maudlin musings on how building a cool gadget makes some guy feel. Who is this video meant to woo? Deanna Troi?
posted by darksasami at 3:26 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


there's an app for that
posted by sexyrobot at 3:30 PM on March 28, 2012


If something says "tricorder project" on it, people are going to be looking for technical specs, not squishy maudlin musings on how building a cool gadget makes some guy feel.\

The people already sold on the idea of tricorders, yes. But explaining why someone, particularly a parent, a teacher or a child, might want such a thing seems to be the point of this presentation. Technical specifications would just be preaching to the choir.
posted by howfar at 3:46 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


hater gonna hate...

How can you guys snark this? I mean it's a functioning tricorder for christ sakes.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


Snark aside,

You're doing it wrong.

Great stuff.
posted by mediareport at 4:03 PM on March 28, 2012


It's called an iphone.

The problem with comparing this to an iPhone is an iPhone costs $500 and comes with all kinds of baggage. This thing is designed to be cheap. When I was a kid I would have gone nuts with one of these. Fuck, give me an IR thermometer and I can still amuse myself for hours.

Which would you rather your kid attached to the side of a rocket, a smartphone or a fun inexpensive bundle of sensors in a rad package?
posted by tracert at 4:07 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of a functioning tricorder just as much as the next guy, but I really think we'd get the same functionality with bluetooth/USB dongles. Solder a bunch of sensors together on one PCB and put it in one dongle, and you have a cheaper solution for people who already have smartphones. And I wonder if a several generations old used smartphone would be cheaper plus the sensors than a dedicated tricorder device.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:10 PM on March 28, 2012


He let slip that he's an alien when he said at the end "...so that we can better understand our WORLDS".
posted by orme at 5:14 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This thing is designed to be cheap.

Folks have brought this up a couple of times in this thread.

It actually *isn't* cheap. Yes, the individual components can be had for less than the cost of an iPhone (note: he got free samples, which isn't guaranteed). But getting the case fabbed is easily several hundred dollars from online shops, and finding somebody local is non-trivial. Having the circuit board printed is easily $50 for one-off. To solder surface-mount chips requires either excellent soldering skills (which most people don't have) or expensive reflow ovens.

Or if you're going to make all of the case yourself... good lord. The tools are crazy expensive. And you can make a toaster oven into a shitty reflow oven, but you gotta build the controller board for that. Egg? Chicken?

Oh, and if you haven't done any of that shit before, it's non-trivial all of the skills that go into. Even if you're not actually designing the system, you have to know what you're doing.

By the time you can actually hold one of these bastards in your hands, if you're building it from components, you could have bought a three iPhones. And your once 8-year-old can have it for his 12th birthday.

Electronics are insanely expensive to prototype. The only time they become of reasonable cost is if they are mass produced at profit.

It's cool that they're open source. And I hope he keeps that up. But, if he wants every kid to have a Tricorder, he better get that shit in Walmart for $99.

[This coming from a dude who built most of a cellphone. On a breadboard. And then gave up because wiring the screen wasn't physically possible in an apartment.]
posted by Netzapper at 5:19 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Netzapper - the case is cut sheets of styrene glued together. Isn't that something you can get at a hobby store?
posted by starvingartist at 5:37 PM on March 28, 2012


I like the idea of a functioning tricorder just as much as the next guy, but I really think we'd get the same functionality with bluetooth/USB dongles. Solder a bunch of sensors together on one PCB and put it in one dongle, and you have a cheaper solution for people who already have smartphones. And I wonder if a several generations old used smartphone would be cheaper plus the sensors than a dedicated tricorder device.

I dunno, I think there's something to the idea of having a physical thing. It reminds me of an episode of The Tobolowsky Files Podcast (Ep. 41 Everyday Weather and How It Works) and in it the actor Stephen Tobolowsky tells a story that touches on the little science experiments him and his brother used to fool around with when he was little --- making rain and wind measuring tools, using a special paint that changed color when atmospheric pressure dropped --- and part of the point of the story, part of the reason I think he remembered it today, and is still a bit of a science buff today, 50-something years later, is because it was so hands on, because there was something you could do, something that required the child's active participation. That made science feel like something you had the power to contribute to. And I don't know if it's quite the same if it's just aps on a phone --- aps on your mom and dad's phone, more like --- if there's nothing for you to actually do, no tactile thing to fool with.
posted by Diablevert at 6:07 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea of pressure sensitive paint seemed impossible... but thanks to Google, I learned something really cool instead.

It's not actually pressure sensitive directly, but it is sensitive to the partial pressure of oxygen, which is close enough for most things. 8)
posted by MikeWarot at 7:14 PM on March 28, 2012


This is a neat project with an intensely annoying video. If something says "tricorder project" on it, people are going to be looking for technical specs, not squishy maudlin musings on how building a cool gadget makes some guy feel.

Then feast your eyes on the Mark I and Mark II.

It's cool that they're open source. And I hope he keeps that up. But, if he wants every kid to have a Tricorder, he better get that shit in Walmart for $99.

It's pretty impressive to be building functional tricorders at any cost in your spare time while in grad school and then a postdoc. Still, he agrees with you and is trying to design a model that can be mass-produced.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:34 PM on March 28, 2012


Eh, I dunno, the more I think about, I'd rather my kiddo experience things, rather than measure them. It may be bad parenting, but I'd rather have them fuck around in the neighborhood for hours on end and come back home missing items of clothing and bleeding in minor ways with a big shit eating grin and something she won't tell me about during dinner time. I mean, I turned out alright with this and the scars do eventually fade. Not like I go out now with an always on camera and a GPS until (although people like me, do)
posted by alex_skazat at 9:54 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would have loved this as a kid. I agree that the current market for this device is probably narrower, but I still think if they can occupy the same space as calculators and cheapo science/school equipment they have a shot.
posted by rosswald at 10:10 PM on March 28, 2012


My first reaction was that the video was too annoying and self-satisfied for the "tricorder" to be any good. Then I read the first paragraph of the tricorder mk 2 website (thanks yoink): "Upon holding the Tricorder near a power adapter plugged into the wall, you could see the oscillating magnetic fields on the magnetometer visualization. There they were, slowly bouncing back and forth, right in front of you." That is pretty cool. After looking more over the webpage the guy falls into the oh so common trap of over-selling the device, reinforcing my first impression.

Still, the idea of making visible the invisible forces which surround us - well, that is pretty neat if already done to some degree, and this device goes outside the abilities of smartphones so far. The implementation does a more than decent job of portraying the potential in such a device. If it evolves into augmented reality displays of electro-magnetic forces that would be really great.

BTW - we all do know about the tricorder x-prize, right?
posted by ianhattwick at 10:58 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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