Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Different Device

The Scanadu Scout is different from most of the body-measuring devices I've seen so far. It's a small, pocket-sized device that can read your body temperature, oxygen levels and heartbeat. An update will add EKG, EEG, and blood-pressure measurements. It's a scanner, not a tracker, inspired by the futuristic tricorder medical device in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek series. (No, seriously: It was an entrant in the recent Qualcomm-sponsored Tricorder X Prize contest.) It's not yet in stores, but it's getting closer, after a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo that put more than $1.6 million in the company's coffers. De Brouwer hopes to sell it in pharmacies. (The final device will also be smaller than the beta version shown here.) We tried it out at ReadWrite headquarters, with me as the test subject. The Scout works by holding up a metal plate to your temple, where it can pick up the widest range of vital signs. It doesn't have its own display; instead, it connects to a smartphone. You'll no doubt be relieved to know that my signs came out normal. I tried exerting myself with a quick round of pushups, but I didn't take into account my relative level of fitness. My heart rate didn't spike noticeably. However, the Scout's heart-rate readings closely matched those of the EB Sync Burn, a wrist-based fitness tracker I've been wearing. An attempt to measure a boost in my heart rate from exercise failed. I don't think I'd carry the Scout with me all day. But that's not the point. It really belongs at home, in the medicine cabinet. "Our bet is on empathy," De Brouwer told me. In other words, the Scout is for you to use on other people as much as on yourself.