Consumer Physics is revolutionizing what people can know about their environment with a pocket-sized spectrometer called SCiO. Realizing how little we actually know about the food we eat, the pills we take or the water we drink, CEO Dror Sharon became inspired to invent the tiny device while studying at MIT. Now he and his team have created the first small spectrometer capable of scanning the spectrum of an everyday object, like a tomato, sending its information to the cloud to be interpreted by unique algorithms, and then having the resulting data show up on a smart phone. For now, you might learn about the tomato's sugar content, but as more people use the SCiO, more complex information will become available. This week at CES in Las Vegas, Consumer Physics made building this database more accessible than ever with a new app called SCiO Workshop, which allows anyone to explore the world on a molecular level.
A CES 2016 Tech for a Better World Award Honoree, the SCiO has enjoyed incredible success already. In addition to catching the eye of over 1,000 researchers, scientists, and other advanced “makers” around the world who are using the company’s DevKit to create their own applications in industries as varied as cosmetics to food, Consumer Physics raised more than $2.7 million with their crowdfunding campaign. This is allowing the company to scale up production at breakneck pace and finesse their platform.
Sharon likened SCiO to Google Street View. In order for this service to work really well, he said, a lot of people need to take photographs of various streets and neighborhoods and tag them with GPS data. Similarly, a lot of people need to use the SCiO to build up a database of molecular information about various objects. So, once the molecular fingerprint of water contaminated with fracking chemicals has been stored, anyone will be able to detect such water in the future with a simple SCiO scan.
At a relatively low price point of $249, the SCiO spectrometer is expected to be shipped to over 14,000 people by May this year. In the meantime, for potential businesses, the applications are endless. To give you a sense of the possibilities, check out DietSensor, winner of the CES Best of Innovation Award. Designed by one of the first developers to purchase the SCiO DevKit, this application makes it ridiculously simple to know the nutritional value of the food you eat each day. We could use it to scan drugs, to detect counterfeits, body parts, or seafood – to determine whether or not it’s been raised in the wild.
Sharon is the first to admit the SCiO currently has “very basic functionality,” but he is also optimistic about the many ways in which the platform can take on a life on its own. The SCiO Workshop is currently in its beta phase, but Sharon says they expect to release the full app within a month. This is like a simplified version of the developer kit (which can be purchased for $449) that allows consumers to build their own mini apps by scanning objects in their environment. It’s fun, it’s educational, it’s a learning tool, and at the same time it is building an unprecedented library of information. Our hope is that SCiO will eventually make it really hard for the big corporations to try to fool us with their labels, since the sensor may one day detect nefarious ingredients slipped into things like shampoo or sunscreens, which we all now know are often dangerous to our health.