SCiO is a new gadget that instantly measures the molecular fingerprint of just about anything you see, and it fits in your pocket. Want to know the alcohol content of that beer you’re about to slurp down or how many grams of sugar are in your apple? This mini spectrometer will tell you. Equipped with some of the capabilities of large, heavy laboratory spectrometers, but built around the kind of optics used in cell phone cameras, the SCiO measures the light reflected off any given object, breaks down its spectrum, and then sends that information to the cloud. Consumer Physics‘ unique algorithms immediately interpret the resulting data and the results show up on your cell phone within 5 seconds on a 3G connection. Designed to empower you with knowledge of your environment, medicine, food, and a near-infinite number of things, the SCiO will also allow you to participate in building the world’s first database of matter.


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“SCiO is based on the proven near-IR spectroscopy method,” writes Consumer Physics. “The physical basis for this material analysis method is that each type of molecule vibrates in its own unique way, and these vibrations interact with light to create a unique optical signature.”

“With every scan, SCiO learns more about the world around us, so we can all get smarter,” the Israel-based developers continue. “Our development team has taught SCiO some exciting things, like to tell how much fat is in any salad dressing, how much sugar is in a particular piece of fruit, how pure an oil is and lots more.”

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In addition to non-invasively harvesting, computing and storing the data about every bit of matter recorded to contribute to the first database of its kind, the SCiO would allow consumers to be more informed about the energetic quantity and quality of everything they consume. This will make it difficult, for example, for big agricultural companies to pass off unhealthy lettuce at the grocery story. By illuminating that lettuce and breaking down its spectrum, the SCiO is able to extract a great deal of information. In other words, light, combined with cutting-edge technology, may expose everything from nefarious ingredients woven into our food, environment and medicine to the calorie content of our favorite chocolate, which we might not want to know.

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Computer Physics is careful to note, however, the device can’t detect the presence or absence of everything.

“SCiO is NOT a medical device and should NOT be relied on to protect you from allergens under any circumstances,” the company explains. “Since SCiO is designed to measure small portions of a sample or food at a time, it cannot guarantee the absence of specific molecules on your plate, or in a serving. SCiO can tell you major components of foods (i.e. with typical concentration of 1% or more), while some allergens can be hazardous even in lower concentrations.”

The product’s genius is (partially) in its built-in perpetuity. As more consumers use it, so does its efficacy grow. The more information stored in the company’s database, the more information it has to share. Compatible with several models of iPhones and Androids and retailing for $249, the SCiO also comes with a developer kit. Which means even a dunce like me can learn how to build a a new molecular sensor model, and that’s nothing short of unreal.

+ SCiO

Images via Consumer Physics