TreeHugger is covering the INDEX awards, celebrating the idea of "Design to Improve Life". This post covers one of the 46 finalists chosen from 1,123 entries.
Arthur C. Clarke's third law was "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Sometimes the submissions to the INDEX awards feel like magic, beyond belief. Take SCiO; it's an infrared spectrometer that fits in your pocket.
Spectrometers are usually big and expensive. SCiO is small and relatively inexpensive at US$ 249; it does its job like Siri, doing a difficult task by offloading the heavy lifting to a database in the cloud. And every time you use it you are adding to that database.
SCiO includes a light source that illuminates the sample and an optical sensor called a spectrometer that collects the light reflected from the sample. The spectrometer breaks down the light to its spectrum, which includes all the information required to detect the result of this interaction between the illuminated light and the molecules in the sample.
Simply use Scio to scan an object – including food, medicine and plants – and have data directly sent to your phone. This information may include calories, sugar content and number of other useful facts. The scanner will have the capacity to answer a number of unanswered daily questions, like if your plants are healthy or when fruit will be ripe to eat.
Some have called it the next best thing to Star Trek's Tricorder; others are more skeptical about its abilities. But it is still like magic, and could be incredibly useful and educational. More at INDEX: Design to improve life.