After his son suffered a severe brain injury in a fall, Walter De Brouwer spent nearly a year in the hospital watching over his child's recovery. The daily routine inspired him to create a simple mobile device that could assess the same vital signs nurses checked each day on his son. "As a big Star Trek fan, I wanted to challenge myself to build something that made the 'tricorder' a reality." And so Scanadu was born.
The company went on to set a record with its $1.6 million Indiegogo campaign, followed by $14 million in venture capital funding. At CES this year it showed off its new prototype for the tricorder, which it calls the Scanadu Scout. You place the device on your temple and it measures your heart rate, temperature, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and gives an electrocardiogram reading. The information is sent via Bluetooth and displayed on a smartphone app which can track your health over time and send you alerts if a vital sign looks troubling.
I tested the Scanadu Scout and was impressed with the immediacy. The second I touched it to my temple it fed back a reading for temperature and heart rate that I could see live in the app. The other vital stats took a few seconds longer to register but nothing that felt like a wait. It was a light plastic, nothing especially impressive in terms of design, but the device was easy to place and the metal felt cool and soothing when pressed against my temple, throbbing from a hangover.
Scanadu plans to begin shipping units to Indiegogo backers in March, but unfortunately they won't be available for retail for a while. The company is seeking FDA approval and is using its Indiegogo backers as a test cohort. In the meantime you can try and get in early on the waiting list for its next product, the Scanaflo, a high-tech urine-testing kit the company hopes people will use at home to monitor their health.