The Tricorder Project


Every once in a while, we stumble across a project that makes us stop and think, "Wow - that's what people are doing with our products?" Truthfully, that seems to happen to us at least once every day - we are pretty amazed by the continued inventiveness of our customers. Today, we are going to talk about one project that was emailed to tech support a few days back and is just too cool to not pass on. It's called The Tricorder Project - check out the video:

The Tricorder Project is an open-source learning tool developed by SparkFun Customer Peter Jansen. Peter set out to create a real-life Tricorder (like the one from Star Trek fame) that would allow kids (and adults) to experience the world around them in a new way. The Tricorder is outfitted with multiple sensors that allow the user to take measurements (like temperature, atmospheric pressure, etc.) of their environment. As Peter explains in the video, he hopes to turn a "walk in the park into a nature walk."

Peter uses an atmospheric temperature and humidity sensor, an RGB color sensor, a 3-axis magnetometer, an IR thermometer, an IR distance sensor, and a Five Degrees of Freedom board in the latest version of the Tricorder. He wraps that all up in a beautifully designed package that features two LED touchscreens. The whole thing runs on Linux.

This is a fantastic and very polished project. There is a wealth of information on Peter's website, include source files, parts lists, explanations, photos - all the stuff you would need to build your very own. Great work, Peter!


Comments 12 comments

  • Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you do an open source project for people to build themselves. He provides all the source files for EagleCAD, the BoM with part #’s and where he got them, and gives you a glimpse of how he built it. This is really well done and should be what hobbyists strive for in product tutorials they want to create for people to use.

    I just hope Apple doesn’t go after him for the keyboard in the v2 model… :/

    • Seriously. I have an Ultimaker and it is open sense only in the loosest sense of the word. There is no BOM at all except for the BOM for the PCB (ie - no BOM for screws, etc), and many of the mechanical parts have no official drawings or information at all available.

      I have some friends who want to build their own UM, and I needed to repair my UM, and in each instance the lack of official documentation was really frustrating.

  • More importantly does it make the right sounds? :-)

  • He should get on kickstarter and start developing kits. these things would sell like Hot Cakes!

  • I freaking LOVE this. Great concept, great site, just awesome. Great job Peter! Thank you for contributing to OSH/OSS!

    Oh… one more thing. Fire your videographer. :-D

  • I don’t think he gave a source for the two touch screen OLED displays and I’ve never even SEEN one that big, they must cost an arm and a leg! The arm processor he used is now a ‘mature’ device and is no longer fully supported by Atmel. There is a current replacement however (that is cheaper!).

  • I saw this on hackaday, and while I don’t remember the exact price, I remember that it was very expensive.

    • Well on the project’s webpage it’s mentioned that the Mark 1 had an final estimated cost of approximately $500 per tricorder, and Dr. Jansen is still trying to get that down to between $100 to $200. Although to really achieve his goal of almost every child in the country being able to use one, he’d like that to be more like $50 per unit. I’m not sure if a 90% cost reduction would be possible, but some automation and economies of scale for large production quantities could go a long way towards getting the per unit price below $200.

  • Now THAT’S cool.

  • Really nice work. I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but after working so hard on the thing it’d seem a good idea to use your own keyboard image rather than lifting one from iOS. I realize it’s just a placeholder, but now that photos are public it should be replaced.

  • Great Project Peter! Agreed its also an excellent example of an OSHW project, and has shown me how I can update my projects both to make them more presentable and also easier to build!

  • AHHHH!!! I WANT ONE!!!!


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