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In the fictional Star Trek universe, a tricorder is a multifunction handheld device used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording data.

Three primary variants of the tricorder are issued in Star Trek's Starfleet. The standard tricorder is a general-purpose device used primarily to scout unfamiliar areas, make detailed examination of living things, and record and review technical data. The medical tricorder is used by doctors to help diagnose diseases and collect bodily information about a patient; the key difference between this and a standard tricorder is a detachable hand-held high-resolution scanner stored in a compartment of the tricorder when not in use. The engineering tricorder is fine-tuned for starship engineering purposes. There are also many other lesser-used varieties of special use tricorders. The word "tricorder" is a portmanteau of "tri-" and "recorder", referring to the device's three default scanning functions: GEO (geological), MET (meteorological), and BIO (biological).[1]


The tricorder of the 23rd century, as seen in Star Trek: The Original Series, is a black, rectangular device with a top-mounted rotating hood, two opening compartments and a shoulder strap. The top pivots open exposing a small screen and control buttons. The ship's doctor uses a variant of this model with a detachable "medical scanner" stored in the bottom compartment when not in use. The 24th century unit is a small, gray, hand-held model with a flip-out panel to allow for a larger screen. This design was further refined later with a slightly more angular appearance that was seen on most of the Star Trek: The Next Generation-era movies as well as later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

In the post-Next Generation era (Star Trek Nemesis and Star Trek: Elite Force II), a newer tricorder was introduced. It is flatter, with a small flap that opens on top and a large touchscreen interface.


The tricorder prop for the original Star Trek series was designed and built by Wah Ming Chang, one of several futuristic props he created under his contract.[citation needed] Some of his designs are considered to have been influential on later, real-world consumer electronics devices. For instance, his communicator inspired Martin Cooper's research on mobile telephony.[citation needed]. In the late 1970's Mego Corporation produced the first ever life sized Tricorder toy designed to play cassette tapes.[2] Since that time many other companies have followed suit and life sized replicas remain popular collectibles today.

"Real" tricorders

Software exists to make hand-held devices simulate a tricorder. Examples include Jeff Jetton's Tricorder for the PalmPilot;[3] the "genuine Tricorder from Elegant Solutions" Web application for the Pocket PC, iPhone, and iPod Touch; and an Android version.[4]

Vital Technologies Corporation sold a portable device dubbed the "Official Star-Trek Tricorder Mark 1" (formally, the TR-107 Tricorder Mark 1) in 1996. Its features were an "Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Meter", "Two-Mode Weather Station", (thermometer and barometer), "Colorimeter" (no wavelength given), "Light meter", and "Stardate Clock and Timer" (a clock and timer). Spokespersons claimed the device was a "serious scientific instrument".[5] Vital Technologies sold 10,000 units before going out of business. The company was permitted to call this device a "tricorder" because Gene Roddenberry's contract included a clause allowing any company able to create functioning technology to use the name.

In February 2007, researchers from Purdue University publicly announced their portable (briefcase-sized) DESI-based mass spectrometer, the Mini-10,[6] which can be used to analyze compounds in ambient conditions without prior sample preparation. This was also announced as a "tricorder".[7]

Sandia National Laboratories in the U.S. is a major center for lab-on-a-chip research, and have developed many handheld instruments for biological or chemical analysis.[8]

In May 2008, researchers from Georgia Tech publicly announced[9] their portable hand-held multi-spectral imaging device, which aids in the detection of the severity of an injury under the skin, including the presence of pressure ulcers, regardless of lighting conditions or skin pigmentation. The day after the announcement, technology websites including Inside Tech[10] and The Future of Things[11] began comparing this device to the Star Trek tricorder.

In October 2009, researchers from NASA showed their prototype[12] for a device that detects deadly gases in the air; it contains a chip the size of a postage stamp connected to an iPhone.

A mobile medical imaging lab that operates using inexpensive mobile phones was demonstrated in 2009.[13]

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.[14]

Toys and replicas

Remco Star Trek Utility Belt

Star Trek Utility Belt by Remco

See also


External links


Template:Star Trek

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