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Modern-Day Tricorder

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2018
MICHAEL D. WHEELER, MANAGING EDITOR, michael.wheeler@photonics.com

In 2017, Qualcomm announced the winners of the much-publicized Tricorder XPRIZE, which challenged inventors to develop a device that could replicate the function of the tricorder in the “Star Trek” television series. The fictional gadget was used by the crew of the USS Enterprise to diagnose medical conditions with a quick scan across a patient’s body.

Building a hand-held medical device that can diagnose conditions ranging from diabetes to urinary tract infections has proven especially difficult: When the Qualcomm prizes were awarded last year, no team had met all 13 requirements set out by the contest organizers.

The answer to reproducing what “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry first envisioned may lie in the ubiquitous cellphone.

As we learn in Science Writer Farooq Ahmed’s “Smartphone Spectroscopy Promises a Data-Rich Future,” there have been exciting breakthroughs aimed at transforming cellphones into hand-held spectrometers. In one case, a group developed a 3D-printed cradle that converts the phone’s camera into a visible-light spectrometer, detecting photon-emission spectra of liquids used in tests for conditions such as phenylketonuria and iron deficiency. Elsewhere, groups have developed pen-like devices employing discrete optics and diffraction gratings, with results rivaling clinical-grade instruments (read article).

In our cover story this month, Contributing Editor Hank Hogan examines how increasingly sophisticated weather satellites and lidar systems are spurring innovation in precision optical filters. Today’s filters offer more spectral bands, steeper slopes, and higher transmission. “Better Filters Yield Better Sensor Performance” (read article).

Another must-read is Senior Editor Susan Petrie’s exclusive interview with SPIE CEO Kent Rochford, who took over the organization’s top post in June. Rochford shared insights into his leadership style, the importance of the International Day of Light, and his goals for the organization in the years ahead. “Catching Up with Kent” (read article).

Finally, our annual Education Special Section — features guest columnist Alexis Vogt of Monroe Community College, who underscores the importance of experiential learning and the role of industry-based curricula in turning out skilled optics and photonics technicians. “Building the Next-Generation Optics Workforce” (read article). And don’t miss Senior Editor Justine Murphy’s interview with Lionel Kimerling, who leads the Education, Workforce Development and Roadmap division of AIM Photonics. “More Training Will Motivate Future Workforce” (read article).

Enjoy the issue!

EditorialMike Wheeler

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