back to article DHS to field Star Trek 'Tricorder' medscanner

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 …


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  1. Ash
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    First rule of triage is...

    ... You do not talk... Wait, no that's something else.

    People that are screaming are aware of the situation. They know it hurts, where it hurts, and to not move it. Aversion to pain does a lot of the work for you.

    People who are quiet are unconscious or in shock, and need help a lot quicker than the screamers (If you've enough blood to keep you lucid, you can afford to lose a little more while we lay this guy down so blood returns to his brain, or stem the flow of a guy with a pole through his neck).

    Not a Responder, but someone who takes an interest. If this tech works, it'll be extremely useful.

  2. Anonymous Coward
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    If this tech works

    We should call the first guy to use it in the field "Bones"...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A legal notebook?

    As opposed to an illegal one?

  4. SuperTim

    The HDD in this tricorder is formatted strangely!

    James T Kirk: "Spock, The hard drive in this tricorder has been partitioned into several sections one has been assigned a drive letter. What would i call that drive?"

    Mr Spock: "That's Logical, Captain"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Done a number

    of major incident exercises both as a victim (much more fun) and a first aider.

    As a victim we were given our scripts and the worst cases were always told to be quiet. Speak slowly & quietly. Try to be unobtrusive and try to wander off.

    Absolutly great fun as you said you felt fine, wandered off and 'died' in the medics canteen or somewhere equally obscure.

  6. Oliver Mayes

    This is all well and good,

    but does it make the right bleeping/whirring noises?

  7. Paul Stephenson
    Thumb Up


    cool technology. a shame it needs line of sight, when i started reading the article i though "hey it'll be able to scan people trapped in debris" but no such luck, version 2 perhaps? :)

  8. Paul

    As a trained first aider...

    ...I can confirm Ash's comments about screamers.

    In a mass casualty situation, the ones with enough energy to do any screaming will be towards the bottom of the triage list. If they shut up, then we start getting worried.

    Not saying you wouldn't treat them, but when there is one of you, and three casualties, they will be last in line until you've had a good look at the others.

    Everyone should get themselves some first aid training. One day it might come in very useful, and it's quite interesting if you like science. You can do half day and one day courses to learn the basics. They have made a lot of it much simpler in the last few years (especially CPR), so it's even easier to learn, and harder to screw up.

    On topic, this bit of kit looks really neat if it works well. Taking pulses and assessing patients is one of the hardest things to do in an emergency situation. Having something that can assess the patient quickly, and accurately would be a godsend.

  9. Jason Togneri

    @ Ash

    While correct, you information is common knowledge and has no apparent direct connection to the article. What was the point of the information? Or were you simply alluding to the fact that you could get an immediate diagnosis based on how active/noisy a patient was being?

  10. Simon Neill
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    put it together with the HUD, sonic shooter locator thingy and mount it on a gun and we can get baddies with health bars! yay!

  11. greg


    Fer fucks sake! Who employs the people that think up ridiculous names? Why cant we give shit like this a decent name!? What the hell is up with Tricorder (no doubt "Triage Recorder").

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm not that convinced of the usefullness of such a gadget. It might speed up the taking of measurements but are emergency staff really going to do this from 10 or 20 feet away?

    As part of the triage process they're going to have to do an examination of the patient, close up!

    Where is the patient bleeding from, where do they hurt? Where's the swelling? It's about feeling the patient, detecting broken bones.

    What would be good is a gadget that can make as many measurements as possible in as short as time as possible, say by placing in contact with the skin.

  13. Christoph

    Excellent idea

    There should be a lot of backing and finance for this. Once it's good enough to measure general health rather than emergencies, all the big companies will be eager to install it where they can scan all their employees and monitor their health. And none of this bullshit about medical privacy and individual rights either - they'll get scanned whether they like it or not, and without even knowing about it. After all, what's more important - human rights, or company profits and the MD's bonus?

  14. Frank
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    @Jason Togneri re.@Ash

    I thought it was a helpful expansion, with explanatory detail in colloquial language, of a paragraph in the article. It helped to clarify the facts in my mind.

    [Thanks Ash ]

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good, but...

    Does it come with the scanner that detaches from the top with the LED on the end?

  16. paulc

    they've already got it wrong...

    the camera windows and the ranging window should be on the opposite face to the display so the operator can easily view the display while pointing it at the victim... the current mockup requires the operator to be looking down into the display while trying to aim it at the victim...

  17. Dave


    Clearly you didn't do a very advanced first aid course:

    First thing you have to work out is whether you have a hope of dealing with the number of casualties present, and the expected time before second or third-line support is reached/available etc. If you are a hundred miles from anywhere, with no comms, then the screamers are the ones you deal with first: they are the ones you have a chance of saving - ignore the guy that's lying there with a leg missing above the knee - he will be dead in a minute if you leave him alone, three if you give him all the help you can.

  18. Eric Crippen


    I was hoping for a machine that goes 'ping'. At least while the admin. is around.

  19. Graham Birks

    What if it was running Windows..?

    "Hold on there sir, just need to check you out with my Tri-recorder. Oh wait a tick, it's still booting up.. Enter password.. Wait a few ticks.. No, I don't want to update my virus definitions.. Oh what's it done that for? No, cancel! Argh now it's frozen! Oh wait, no, it was just booting up Steam.. No, I don't want to take part in a HP survey.. What's it doing that for?? Blue screen of death?? Oh you f***ing piece of sh*t!! Damn you all to hell!!!

    Sorry sir, it won't be much longer now., hello? Doctor, it happened again...."

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Other uses...

    I can imagine a version of this used to monitor people during interrogations, with or without their consent. Or in an airport line. "This person is just a little too hyper, pull them out of line and search them"

    For more mundane uses, it would be pretty handy for veterinarians to monitor their patients without having to touch a paranoid, squirming, biting animal. (if it can get through fur)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo


    The solution is not to install all that stuff...

  22. Disco-Legend-Zeke


    in a scenario with 100 or so wounded pple lying about, this seems like a perfect way to allocate resources.

  23. WhatWasThat?

    But would it work?

    So, you are assuming that you have three or more victims conveniently sprawled fairly close together... After a "disasterous" situation... with no intervening debris, like concrete walls, smashed autos, an overturned table, etc... And all within the range of 3-5 seconds of walking/running distance, and you are supposed to be navigating this treacherous landscape while peering into a box in front of your face with both hands instead of balancing...

    So who wants to place a bet against:

    1. First OSHA case when a "first responder" slips and breaks *their* leg using this?

    2. First victim's family lawsuit that the device didn't point out their Dad/Son/Mom/Daughter/etc. in time to save them?

    3. First mass lawsuit over misreadings from muddy/icy river/flooding incident where heat sensors can't quite discern difference between dangerously low body temp covered in mud/ice versus background media.

    4. First lawsuit when over-reliance starts to take hold (if it gets that far)?

    There are so many things that go into wading past regulations and testing that this thing is probably 5-7 years off from getting out of "pilot" projects.

    Now, if this was something that could be wired up into virtual displays in first responder's head sets, and tracked by central, on-scene computer, might still provide great deal of help. Especially if you had several responders collecting / viewing information simultaneously at the same scene. Even then, would have to end up with severe "restrictions" about "not being a tool for diagnosing any condition" or "not intended to be used to make or assist decisions about providing treatment", etc. Which makes its primary purpose moot?

    Icon because its the lawyers that will be seen on the monitor taking all the dev money away...

  24. John Smith Gold badge

    And of course there is inverse triage

    As practised by special forces units following terrorist incidents.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dammit Jim!

    I'm a doctor, not a nerdy laptop user

  26. Anonymous Coward

    A tazer?

    I thought they called it a tazer? Stand well back, and zap 'em. Et voila, you know exactly what condition they're in: Extra crispy ;)

  27. Sarev
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    Completely useless

    So rather than rushing to the aid of the victims, you try to hold the laser on each person's carotid artery for 20 seconds or so each, from ten meters away, while they may be writhing in agony. Or shouting abuse at you for standing there like a lemon, more likely.


  28. Curtis
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    @Simon Neill

    You owe me a keyboard, sir!

  29. BioTube

    I hate these Homland Security stories

    They always make me think they're about the state Department of Human Services, which would have no use for a tricorder.

    I know, I know: I'll get my coat.

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