SCiO puts a Star Trek-like molecular scanner in your pocket


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SCiO scans items and tells you what they're made of. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — Your iPhone is really great at finding places to eat, recipes to cook and stores to buy food at, but when it comes to actually analyzing the things that go in your mouth, it’s not very futuristic. That’s where Consumer Physics comes in with its molecular analyzer called SCiO that brings Star Trek-like tech to your pocket.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015SCiO is a tiny spectrometer similar to the giant ones found in laboratories that are used to analyze the molecular makeup of objects. Only instead of pumping out nothing but nerdy scientific facts, SCiO was designed to help iPhone users analyze everyday objects, so you can discover things like how much fat is in a piece of cheese or whether a watermelon is ripe.

“Your iPhone can tell you what song is playing on the radio, but when it comes to telling you the nutritional value of food it’s kind of clueless,” says Consumer Physics’ CEO Dror Sharon. “With SCiO we’re encouraging explorers to help us on our mission to map the physical world.”

SCiO works by shining a near-infrared light on materials, exciting their molecules. The tiny device pairs with an iPhone app to run a quick analysis of the light reflecting off those vibrating molecules and identify their unique signature and determine the object’s chemical composition.

It’s not just great at analyzing food for health nuts, though. SCiO can tell whether your plants need food, and even distinguish between cheap fake prescription drugs and the real deal.

At International CES this week, the company told Cult of Mac it’s planning to branch out into other areas with its application-development kit, giving third-party apps the ability to tap into the power of SCiO’s portable spectrometer. Pretty soon Consumer Physics will add the ability to check cosmetics, clothes, jewels, rubber, plastics, human tissue and even bodily fluids.

SCiO launched as a Kickstarter last year, but the company told us it’s planning to ship units within the next three months. If you didn’t get in on the early-bird special, you can grab one now from their site for $250.