To be honest, I didn't know we could do this yet. Welcome to the future, Paul. SCiO is a miniaturized near-infrared spectrometer, which detects the molecular signature of things. It was Kickstarted a couple years ago, and now it's been miniaturized small enough to fit inside a phone. Specifically, it's inside the new Changhong H2.
The sensor works by bouncing infrared off an object and registering the unique molecular fingerprint that bounces back. It's not so fancy that you can just point it at anything and it tells you what it is. Instead, developers can create different use cases by training it on a bunch of samples. Say, for example, you want to know the gluten content of bread. A developer just would get a ton of slices of bread, and point the sensor at each of them while logging how much gluten it's seeing each time. Now you have a gluten app!
I tried out a few apps. One was designed to measure the sugar content in fruits. You pick the fruit you want to scan, scan it, and then it tells you if the sugar content is high or low relative to that category. I was pretty skeptical going in, so I was surprised when the sensor correctly pointed me to the sweetest strawberry in a dodgy bunch. Another app could differentiate between real and fake Viagra pills, and another app told me all about my body fat when I put the sensor to my bicep.
Not all the measurements were completely consistent. My body fat went from 32% to 28% in the course of the demo. And a pair of strawberries registered as average, and then well above average, in one session. But it still correctly identified the sweetest one, and it never got the Viagra test wrong.
Because this is a real sensor and apparently valid science, developers can really go in a lot of directions with this. An app to measure your weed? An app to find out if your drink has been tampered with? Totally possible.
The phone is coming to China first, and will hopefully be headed to the US later this year. There's no word on price yet, but we might know more later today. The phone itself is nice if unexceptional, with a 6-inch screen and an unspecified 8-core CPU. But, also, did I mention that there's a molecular sensor that measures molecules? Yeah, I thought so.
This post has been updated to include video.