1.0 - What would be a Tricorder

I met many scientists, some internationally renowned, who were not afraid to say that their work had some influence from science fiction. In fact, Science Reality contains a lot of inspiration from Science Fiction. In this context, the fiction of the Startrek's universe is almost a gift of inspiration. Obviously much of Startrek's fictional universe is pure poetic license using writer's jargon, but on the other hand much is potentially useful to be scientifically explored and technologically worked. An interesting example is the Tricorder whose function is to evaluate in detail the environment being explored. The concept of Tricorder is not an academic concept because the instrument was conceived within a fictional universe. So, defining a concept for the Tricorder within our scientific reality at least for now is a matter of much more personal interpretation. My personal view, based on all the episodes I've could watch, is that a Tricorder lets us extend the human senses to what we can see and hear. However, more than that, it also allows for clarification of completely stranger things based on the crossing of information from not so stranger things. So, a Tricorder is not simply a collection of sensors, but a small computer with a vestige of artificial intelligence to process known things and get information for unknown things. But what are known things and what are unknown things? This is a difficult question to answer because the definition of known and unknown is inherent at the human consciousness. Sometimes an unknown thing is just a different composition of known things. For example, we may find a metal alloy completely unknown to our technology, but it must certainly be made of known metals. Similarly, we can find a polymer composite completely unknown to our technology, but certainly its integral components are known. This should be so because we know that the Periodic Table is closed within physical and chemical limitations to the laws of our universe. This means that a Tricorder could tell us what a metal alloy is made of or what the chemical components of a polymer composite are, but any information will be based on the periodic table that is well known a priori. Another different example can be drawn from a hypothetical situation. Imagine that an unidentified flying object appears to our eyes only as a body of light. A Tricorder can analyze the object by evaluating the magnetic field, electric field, radiation, temperature, electromagnetic spectrum, heat and sound emitted by it. The intersection of this information can delineate the nature of the object and help to understand what it can be, much more than our simple senses. Of course, this is a totally hypothetical but fully feasible situation. In that case, the Tricorder will evaluate known effects and define the unknown, or at least help our brain to do so. The fact is, we don't have this kind of instrument yet, at least not yet the size of a cell phone. It may be possible to do all of this using a set of equipment from a super lab with the help of several computers. However, before this is possible we must go through the sensor collection stage. Through miniaturized processors and chemical and electronic sensors, it is already possible to build Tricorder prototypes in reasonable dimensions for operational use. I think we can call this Proto Tricorders.
Electronic sensors are widely available and are sold in small practical instruments for different tasks. We can find thermometers, thermal cameras, ultrasonic measuring tapes and others that are used daily by different professionals. In this context, cell phones are Proto Tricorders because apps often work within the principles that govern the definition of a Tricorder. It is all a matter of practical utility. Thinking this way, a Tricorder can be very practical and usual even if it is not used on other planets. In other words, a Tricorder can be very useful for soldiers, engineers, firefighters, boy scouts, campers, police officers, farmers, truck drivers and explorers in general. But in this case, why don't we have Tricorders to sell in stores out there. The answer is quite simple, only now has technology become conducive to this kind of instrument. The advent of miniaturized processors and embedded electronics such as Arduino allows to gather several sensors in one instrument. I emphasize again that this is not exactly a Tricorder from Startrek series yet, but it is already a Proto Tricorder. Perhaps that was not possible 20 years ago. What awaits us for 20 years from now. Which will tell to 2260, fictional time where happens the mission of 5 years of the classic series of Startrek. 

2.0 - Tricorduino 3.0

Tricorduino 3.0 uses a Feather MO adalogger, an idea originally described by Queadlunn at https://hackaday.io/Queadlunn. The great advantages of this processor are the small size and MicroSD card holder for adding as much storage, for reading or writing. This enhances the possibility of project miniaturization and we can achieve one of the most important characteristics of a Tricorder, which is the recording of collected data for later, more careful analysis in a computer. The prototype presented here is an experimental platform that after several months of transformation has the following detection capabilities; ambient temperature, humidity, pressure, altitude, magnetic field, electrostatic field, low frequency electromagnetic field “60 HZ”, microwave, volatile gases, CO, CO2, thyndall effect in the environment, temperature of nearby objects, measuring distance up to 4 meters, gamma radiation, uv light, visible light, visible region spectroscopy, RGB colorimetry, lightning distances and GPS coordinates.

3.0 - Power Supply

In a project like this, power supply can be a problem. We fight here for power, operating time and small size. When I started this project, with a few sensors, I didn't immediately imagine that battery choice would be a problem. But as the number of sensors increased I realized that this was really a challenge. In this version, I'm using a Li-Po battery of 3.7 volt 2000 mAh. Initial tests have shown that after getting a full charge the set can run for a little over 3 hours continuously on. I admit that I would like at least 6 hours of autonomy, but that's what I have at the moment. Working with this battery we still have as a limitation the use of sensors that operate at 3.3 volts. I tried to use a micro converter from 3.7 to 5.0 volts, but the device generates interference in the 500-kHz band which makes the lightning sensor unfeasible. We also tied the battery thru a divider to an analog pin, so you can measure and monitor the battery voltage to detect when you need a recharge. The battery charging process is done through a TP4056 Mini USB Charger Module for 3.7V Lithium Battery Micro. The prototype also uses a CR2032 miniature battery that keeps the clock running continuously.

4.0 - Box and cover

As it is a prototype, the design of the box is quite simple. The structure is composed by 6 Polyacetal plates previously machined to form an angled box. This is the simplest design that allows it to point the instrument in a certain direction while slightly reducing the excess sunlight on the screen. Once machined with all the holes in the correct positions, the assembly can be assembled and disassembled in parts as needed. The top covers were made with aluminum plates previously machined and anodized. The position of the sensors was not previously designed. The prototype was being built little by little and for that reason, adaptation was the watchword. Of course, a second version can fix all of this, but the current architecture is enough for doing the practical tests. Due to prototype conditions, I didn't bother designing a printed circuit board. I used universal plates and consequently there is a tangle of wires all over the interior of the prototype. I insist on saying that this does not affect the functioning for the tests that will be done from now on. However, it should be noted that a good printed circuit design can further reduce the instrument's size.
Although I'm using a Capacitive Touch controller, I chose to use Push Button to change functions. The reason is purely a matter of user taste. Personally, I prefer to feel the spring force in my fingers when pressing a key. But the touch-sensitive keys option is fully doable.

The set has three metallic antennas incorporated into the box structure. Two of them are basically hard copper wires. The first one is inserted as an arc on the outside of the faceplate and is responsible for detecting electrostatic fields. The second antenna is inserted inside the left side plate and is responsible for microwave and radio frequency detection. The third antenna responsible for capturing low frequency electromagnetic fields, 60 Hz, is the anodized aluminum top cover. It is important to note that I did not perform any calibration process for these measurements. For now, they are purely experimental and these antennas need to be characterized so that a perfect optimization of the processes involved could be possible.

5.0 - Videos