A new Kickstarter has just been funded to create a device about the size of a car clicker to tell you what is in your food.
The scanner harnesses the power of physics and chemistry to figure out everything from the sugar content of a given apple to whether or not that drink you left on the bar has been drugged.
The device, called SCiO, actually uses a technology similar to the one that helps astronomers figure out the make-up of the stars — called spectroscopy.
SCiO detects the molecular “signature” of your food and then sends the details to your smartphone through its Bluetooth connection. SCiO’s database translates that signature into nutritional content.
In addition to food apps, early apps will include those for plants (Does it need watering?) and medicine. Consumer Physics, a company based in Tel Aviv, Israel and SCiO’s creator, suggests that the device’s future capabilities are only limited by our imagination. Upcoming applications could include those for makeup, precious stones, leathers, “and even you or your pet!” according their Kickstarter FAQ.
How it works
SCiO uses a beam of light and reads the unique interactions that different types of molecules have with that light — using its spectrometer.
The spectrometer “reads” the different wavelengths present in the light reflected back from the food. By comparing the light that was sent to the sample with the light reflected back off of it, the device creates a bar-code-like rainbow for the sample.
Analysis of this barcode gives away the food’s molecular makeup. The molecular makeup can then be used by the app to determine its nutrition information.
From prototype to shipment
While the technology itself is not new — it has been utilized by everyone from border patrol agents to people analysing sewage — the handheld size is. You can see the current working prototype in the middle below, as well as the SCiO, which is the reward for pledging $US149 or more (sold out) to the Kickstarter, to the right.
While all SCiO shipments are planned to go out by December, the SCiO will only be able to identify things currently in its database.
Still the company promises that “out of the box, your SCiO will support a large database containing many materials and applications,” according to their FAQ. Items not in the database, may come up “unknown,” or with a “value estimation.” In the video they show it reading watermelons, apples, and avocados.
As far as accuracy goes, that will depend on the application you are using (users will also be able to make their own for specialised purposes), and the size and quality of the given database, said SCiO. However, the more users scan, the more Consumer Physics builds up a “matter database” which the company can use to increase its available food information for consumers. Users can also choose to share their own data on social media.
With all of its promise, the device still comes with a few footnotes. Since the only part of the food analysed by SCiO is the illuminated part (about half an inch in diameter and 1/10th of an inch deep), it is not analysing the food as a whole and is therefore not foolproof as an allergy detective. It also does not reveal food components with concentrations less than 1%.
Consumer Physics has already reached over four times its $US200,000 goal, but you can still shell out $US200 for an early-adopters kit.
Check out their Kickstarter campaign video below:
And here’s the prototype demo:
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