Wednesday

28th Sep 2016

Focus

Belgian trades EU for US to build Star Trek medical device

Start Trek fans will know about the Tricorder, a handheld device used by Captain Kirk and company to, among other things, scan the biological state of the living creatures they encountered on their interplanetary voyage.

Today, almost 50 years after the science-fiction series first aired on American television, the device is close to becoming a reality.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“It really is very difficult to build, but not impossible,” says Walter De Brouwer, the founder and CEO of Scanadu, a start-up company based in Sillicon Valley working with the NASA space agency to build a 21st-century Tricorder, to be put on the market by 2014.

The Tricorder, he says, will be not much more than a smartphone extension and be able to monitor and diagnose your health conditions without needing blood, urine, saliva, physical contact or even cooperation from the patient.

Instead, the Tricorder works with light, says De Brouwer, without going into details. “Advanced optics. Everything is light.”

It is one of many new futuristic health devices that are making the rounds at future-of-healthcare conferences like TEDMED or FutureMed and, we are told, will be here rather sooner than later. “There is an explosion of new devices,” says De Brouwer.

Not made in Europe

But like the conferences, it seems most of the devices are either American-made or designed. And not European. De Brouwer himself, a Belgian national, recently moved to California in order to start work on the Tricorder.

“People who decide to live in Silicon Valley are larger than life,” he says. “They are romantics, not afraid to take risks or to fail.”

But most of all, he says, they are happy to listen to other people's ideas "with a willing suspension of disbelief,” citing English 19th-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The advent of the Tricorder came a step closer in January when Qualcomm, an American telecommunications company, launched a $10 million prize for whoever builds the device first. De Brouwer is officially competing.

"In Europe," he says, "people are of the extreme cautionist school - they only do something if it has proven to work in the US.”

De Brouwer takes the example of the VScan handheld ultrasound device, recently presented by General Electric. “In Europe, people would say: It can’t be done. In the US they say: It will be done.”

And what about the Tricorder? Would it have been possible to build in Europe?

“No,” says De Brouwer. “First in the US, then in Europe.”

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  2. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  3. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  4. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  5. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  6. Martens CentreQuo Vadis Georgia? What to Expect From the Parliamentary Elections. Debate on 29 September
  7. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  8. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  9. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  10. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  11. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  12. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations