Feeds

DHS to field Star Trek 'Tricorder' medscanner

'They're dead, Jim! DEAD! No, wait... flat battery'

High performance access to file storage

US federal boffins say they are well on the way to developing a Star Trek style "tricorder", able to monitor a person's medical condition from 40 feet away.

The so-called Standoff Patient Triage Tool (SPTT) is described in glowing terms by the inhouse journal of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, S&T Snapshots. The DHS S&T boys are people who also intend to give the world the puke ray light-sabre and the lobster-beam scanner.

This time, it seems they're looking to help out "first responders" (US speak for emergency services, mostly) arriving at the scene of a major disaster, terrorist strike or similar. In such situations it's necessary to swiftly sort the living casualties by priority order for medical care - "triage", as they call it in the trade.

“We thought, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if a responder, fully clothed in an emergency suit, could have a technology to take vital signs quickly from 5 to 40 feet away?’” says Greg Price of DHS S&T.

Normally triage involves a time-consuming process of checking pulse, respiration etc. etc. by individual contact on each patient. Things aren't helped by the fact that some casualties - while in fact not in very serious trouble compared to others - may be screaming, bleeding or otherwise drawing attention to themselves while someone else is unobtrusively dying in the corner.

“Human nature is to pay attention to the person who is screaming and bleeding, but someone else with a less obvious internal injury may need to be the first priority,” says Price. “In the case of large-scale triage, it is not always the squeaky wheel that needs the grease. The SPTT may someday help first responders hear a lot more from their patients, and much more quickly.”

The SPTT, which is to be "about the size of a legal notebook and as a thick as a ream of paper", works using laser doppler vibrometry and a camera to measure pulse, body temperature and muscle movements such as breathing. The DHS boffins believe it could get full vital-signs readings from a good 10 metres off provided it has line-of-sight to a suitable body part. It seems the carotid artery is best, but good readings have been obtained from all over the body - even from a foot.

According to S&T Snapshots, "Star Trek fans will recognize [the SPTT] for its resemblance to the medical diagnostic tool known as the tricorder ... Despite its promise, the SPTT is not quite as a sophisticated as the tricorder. For instance, the tricorder was able to comprehensively diagnose obscure diseases [and the SPTT can't] ... science fiction remains on the big screen for the moment."

But the still-quite-snazzy (if it works) SPTT will at least be moving out of the lab shortly. It's supposed to get some field trials with US paramedics this autumn. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.