A hyperspectral smartphone-based Star Trek ‘tricorder’

April 2, 2015

(credit: Unispectral Technologies)

Tel Aviv University researchers hope to turn smartphones into powerful hyperspectral sensors that determine precise spectral data for each pixel in an image.

As with the Star Trek tricorder,* the enhanced smartphones would be capable of identifying the chemical components of objects from a distance, based on unique hyperspectral signatures.

The technology combines an optical component and image processing software, according to Prof. David Mendlovic of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering and his doctoral student, Ariel Raz.

The researchers, together with spinoff Unispectral Technologies, have patented an optical component based on existing microelectromechanical (MEMS) technology. The design is suitable for mass production and compatible with standard smartphone camera designs.

Unispectral is in talks with other companies to analyze the images, using a large database of hyperspectral signatures. A prototype is scheduled for release in June, says Mendlovic.

Applications of the sensor include consumer electronics, the automotive industry, biotechnology, homeland security, remote health monitoring, industrial quality control, and agricultural crop identification, according to Mendlovic.

Unispectral’s funders include Sandisk and Momentum Fund, which is backed by Tata Group Ltd. and Singapore-based Temasek.

* In Star Trek lore, the word “tricorder” is an abbreviation of the device’s full name, the “TRI-function reCORDER,” referring to the device’s primary functions; Sensing, Computing and Recording. On May 10, 2011 the X Prize Foundation announced with Qualcomm Incorporated the “Tricorder X PRIZE,” a $10 million incentive to develop a mobile device that can diagnose patients as well as or better than a panel of board certified physicians.

Ramot at Tel Aviv University | Unispectral — The next-generation compact camera