First Look: Scanadu Scout, a Real-Life Tricorder

The Scanadu Scout, a real-life tricorder?

Like all geeks of a certain age, I watched with easy acceptance as Dr. McCoy eyed his medical tricorder while waving a handheld scanner at his patients. Of course he has sleek electronic gadgets to make his diagnoses. The intrusive diagnostic devices of the twentieth century seemed too crude — even medieval — to be used in our shiny, high-tech future.

With the first crop of actual, not-just-on-TV tricorders nearing release, it seems another Star Trek vision is coming to the real world. Scanadu is a finalist in the Tricorder XPRIZE, and the Scout device is becoming available in pre-release form as part of their large-scale FDA consumer health study (a portion of a larger roadmap to gain FDA approval).

the Scanadu Scout in-hand

Karina (a medical doctor and public health professional) and I (emphatically not a doctor but very interested in the health applications of tech and design) were early backers of the Scanadu Indiegogo campaign, giving us early access to a Scout and making me a willing human guinea pig in the study.

The System

The Scout consists of a hopia-sized, sensor-laden handheld scanner (obscure Filipino-culture pastry reference here), along with a smartphone app to collect and display the data. The device is entirely dependent on the app for functionality, with no display or controls of its own beyond an on/off button. The package also contains a micro-USB cable for charging.

Scanadu Scout shown with scale reference

The Hardware

The Yves Béhar-designed device is made in California, and its form reflects a thoughtful design process. Designed to be held and used by the person being measured, the rounded, finger-friendly edges and cleverly positioned indentations are made both for comfort and for optimizing the position of the sensors relative to the subject’s body. Finger indentations on the top and bottom surfaces encourage a proper grip and good ballpark positioning when raised up to the forehead. A sensor on the top surface rests inside the finger indent (an affordance that the finger naturally falls into when gripping the device). Additional sensors positioned on a flat surface on the front edge are intended to be lightly placed against the forehead. Tiny holes on top and bottom presumably are ports for additional sensors measuring the ambient environment.

The rear edge houses the on/off button, the charging port and a power LED. A nice touch on the underside is an inscription reading “sapere aude,” a Latin phrase meaning “Dare to know.”

Rear View of Scanadu Scout

The device is surprisingly light, almost incongruously unsubstantial given the serious information it’s designed to measure. The glossy plastic on the top and bottom has a nice, slightly silky feel but the material’s appearance says “inexpensive medical device” more than it says “Apple.”

Installing the App

The Scout’s smartphone software installs from the App store, requiring no configuration beyond giving the Scout a name and entering some basic personal information (name, height, weight and age) to help with the data interpretation — and presumably to help with the calibration and data validation Scanadu is doing as part of the study. In its current form, the app is intended for a single user, consistent with the constraints of the investigational study (and, I suspect, the constraints of their software development schedule). However, Scanadu indicated that multi-user capability will be available in the future once the device gains FDA approval.


Starting a scan immediately guided me through the largely automated process of pairing my iPhone with the scanner via Bluetooth. The only action needed from me was to press the power button. Easy.

Additional screens illustrate how to hold the device and position it on your own forehead. The finger indents and the natural fold of the left arm got me close to the right spot, but the app’s real-time feedback showed that the data acquisition was weak at first. Small changes in position, pressure and body movement all made a big difference, and it was hard to tell from feel alone whether the flat sensor edge was pressing against my forehead. The short time window for collecting data (before the app halted the reading or the scanner hardware went to sleep) meant that many of my early attempts resulted in failed readings. Practice helps, though — I can now get good readings about 75% of the time after a couple of days of occasional practice. Nevertheless, it’s frustrating that the capture fails after the set time interval even as good data comes in. Ideally, the Scout would continue sending for as long as the app confirms good input.

Scanadu Scout in action

The app interface and the data displays are clear and easy to navigate. The real-time data collection screen (below, left) shows an EKG-like live trace, along with an indicator of signal quality. Some set quantity has to be collected before the reading is considered successful and can be analyzed. Otherwise, the collected data are discarded. Upon completion, results for blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and blood oxygen saturation SpO2 are displayed in a summary screen, with some qualitative interpretation (below, center). Personal data trends for various time frames are available in the history screen (below, right). The Scanadu site indicates that the Scout data will include EKG, heart rate variability and some composite measure of stress, but these are not included in the current app. These measures will likely be possible, given that the acquisition screen already shows a real-time EKG, but this doesn’t appear to be recorded or interpreted. Perhaps these will be added later as the app and the underlying algorithms are developed further.

Scanadu app screens


The Scout’s design and data displays are impressive, but does the device really work? Is it accurately measuring what it purports to measure? Quick checks against alternative methods and my own history indicate good accuracy, but we’ll be doing a series of more careful comparisons against traditional measurements in coming weeks.

The Real McCoy

If the accuracy proves to be as good as early comparisons indicate, the Scout promises to be a leap forward in personal health monitoring. It replaces a bag full of traditional instruments, and potentially makes advanced measures like an EKG possible. The simplicity of making measurements makes it practical to get more data over time — even for non-professionals — creating a picture of an individual’s health that can be correlated with behavior, treatment, diet and other factors. Stay tuned in coming weeks as we do our own informal validation of the Scout’s data to confirm that our Star Trek-style medical future has truly arrived.

Post-Tropical Papaya Smoothie

After spending a month traveling in the Philippines and gorging on delicious tropical holiday fare — then taking another couple of weeks recovering from the exotic-sounding tropical dengue fever I picked up along the way — I’d had a belly full of tropical goodness for a while.

Now it’s March and Ohio’s early-spring promises of sunshine and breezy afternoons (along with three months endured of winter’s bitter winds and endless snow) have me longing for palm trees and beaches again.  A nice-looking papaya has been ripening on the counter next to the bananas since the weekend, and I was ready for another taste of the tropics. I made this smoothie a bit simpler than my usual multi-fruit fare, all the better to bring out the papaya’s flavor…

Papaya-Banana Smoothie

Post-Tropical Papaya (and Banana) Smoothie

1½ cups papaya chunks This was about half of a medium-sized papaya.
1 banana It’s just not a smoothie without a banana, I sometimes say. And it’s a nice tropical complement to the papaya flavor.
1–1½ cups almond milk Use less for a thicker, creamier texture.
½ cup plain, nonfat yogurt More creaminess and a bit more protein.
¼ cup raw walnuts Just a few, to balance the tropical fruit sweetness and add some good-for-you nuttiness.
1 tbsp whole flax seeds Need some of those delicious Omega-3s!
dash chia seeds (optional) Add these if you like a little texture (and chia  nutritiousness) in your smoothie like I do.

Good for about two 8-ounce servings.

Place all of the ingredients except the chia seeds into the Vitamix or other blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and stir in the chia seeds. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes to give the chia seeds time to settle in, then kick back and imagine the sunrise coming up over an endless blue sea…

Neapolitan Banana Split Smoothie

When I was a kid, my mom was fond of neapolitan ice cream. My memories are colored with recollections of cracking open the freezer after school, digging out the half-gallon box and dishing out scoops of milky-brown chocolate, white vanilla and neon-pink strawberry ice cream into a Corelle bowl lined with sliced bananas.

This Sunday morning, I thought I’d do a grown-up-me version of that old favorite!

Neapolitan Banana Split SmoothieNeapolitan Banana Split Smoothie

1 banana Unlike banana splits, a ripe and mushy one would be great.
½ cup strawberries We had some early-season fresh ones, but frozen would work, too. No neon pinks here, but they add a beautiful strawberry color.
2 tbsp raw cacao nibs Can’t have neapolitan without chocolate!
1–1½ cups vanilla almond milk Use less for a thicker, creamier texture that you can eat with a spoon.
2 tbsp plain, nonfat yogurt More creaminess and a bit more spunky tartness.
¼ cup raw almonds Let’s make that almond milk a bit more almond-y.
¼ cup blueberries The strawberries were a little too early to be sweet, so I added a few of these.
2 dried apricots Just because.
dash whole flax seeds Need some of those delicious Omega-3s!

Place all of the ingredients into the Vitamix or other blender. Be sure to reserve a strawberry or two and a few cacao nibs if you want to use some to garnish your creation. Blend until smooth. This should be good for about two 8-ounce servings.

Neapolitan Banana Split Smoothie

Banana Bread Smoothie: Comfort Food in a Glass

I’m a pastry guy. But when faced with a multitude of choices in the baker’s case, banana bread almost always makes the cut as a finalist. While visiting Press (my favorite coffee shop here in Dayton) a couple of days back, I had to make a choice between banana bread and a homemade, soft-dough chocolate chip cookie… and I chose banana bread. That’s how much I like banana bread.

I decided to try my hand at making a smoothie version. I think this recipe captures some of that comfort-food goodness…

Banana Bread Smooth with WalnutsBanana-walnut bread, in a smoothie!

2 bananas Riper is better, just like with banana bread!
½ small avocado Didn’t expect this in the recipe, did you? Adds a nice creaminess to the naturally smooth banana texture. Try it, you’ll like it.
handful raw walnuts We’ll be adding these and letting them stay a bit chunky in the smoothie, to give it that extra bit of banana bread-ness.
handful dried goji berries Adds a little nutty complexity to the flavor, some nice color and a whole bunch of great nutrients and antioxidants.
big dash flax seeds A little more nutty flavor, along with some Omega-3s.
dash chia seeds (optional) These remind me of tiny boba or berry seeds, and they adds protein and other goodness. If you don’t care for that texture, blend it until smooth or leave out the chia altogether.
dash ground cinnamon The recipe works without it, but I like banana bread with the extra zest added by cinnamon.
1 large ice cube We have a giant, cocktail-sized cube tray, so you might need a couple of regular-sized cubes.
1-2 cups unsweetened almond milk Some nice grass-fed, natural skim milk would work here, too! 1 cup resulted in a fairly thick drink, the way I like it. Use a bit more if you prefer yours thinner.

Place the bananas, avocado, goji berries, flax seeds, ice and milk into the Vitamix and blend until smooth. Reserving one or two for a garnish, add the walnuts to the previously blended ingredients. Blend on low to medium until the nuts are chopped into smallish pieces. Pour into a glass and stir in some chia seeds until evenly mixed. Top with a dash of cinnamon and garnish with walnuts.

Can you almost smell that fresh-baked banana bread? Enjoy!

Meatless Monday Feast

Meatless Monday Feast for Two Hungry Humans

Do you have 40 minutes tonight to prepare your dinner?

Meatless Monday noise is over. It’s not a fad any more. It’s now alive and well to benefit all of us mortals. Eating exclusively plants at least once a week for an awesome return1 is not so bad:

The EPIC study found that vegan and vegetarian groups had a 32 percent lower risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease.1

We try on most “normal” days to go meatless. Not just Mondays. Check out how we made this easy feast. No one will ask you, “Where do you get your protein?” on this one.

Meatless Monday Feast

First, the salad…

Home Pantry Salad, Raw and Fresh

Home Pantry Salad, Raw and Fresh

True to the wild spirit of our kitchen, we went with the flow on what we had when we opened the fridge and the pantry.

1 bunch Romaine lettuce, organic
1 large mango, organic
2 handfuls dried Goji berries, organic
1 handful raw walnuts, organic
2 TBSP Chia seeds, organic

Raw salad ingredients.

Raw salad ingredients.

1. Chop off the bottom that holds lettuce together.
2. Wash lettuce and mango thoroughly.
3. Chop lettuce in whatever way you wish and place in salad bowl.
4. Peel the mango and slice in cubes; place on top of the chopped lettuce.
5. Sprinkle Goji berries, walnuts, and chia seeds.
6. Mix when ready to eat.

Next, the tofu…

Garlic Tofu Pan Steak

Garlic Tofu Pan Steak

So what do we have here?

1 box Nasoya Extra Firm Tofu, non-GMO, organic
1 bulb garlic, organic
Extra virgin coconut oil, organic
Bragg’s Amino (use tamari or soy sauce, if you prefer)
Ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Dried basil leaves
Sesame seeds

Veggie steak ingredients.

Veggie steak ingredients.

1. Chop tofu in blocks as shown above.
2. Mince garlic.
3. Heat 1 TBSP extra virgin coconut oil. Set to low heat.
4. Saute garlic till light brown.
5. Sear tofu.
6. While one side of tofu is being seared, season top of each block with Bragg’s Amino sauce, garlic powder, and basil sprinkles.
7. Flip tofu and repeat #6.
8. Flip tofu each way until both sides are light brown.
9. When ready to serve, top each block with sautéed garlic and sprinkle sesame seeds.

Now, the sides… rice 

Steamed Herbed Quinoa and Lentils

Steamed Herbed Quinoa and Lentils

I love white rice. But at some point, I needed to switch to low glycemic eating. I feel better. I weigh better. So proudly, I have mastered some happy edits to “rice” when I feel like enjoying some.

2 cups quinoa, organic
2 cups yellow/red lentils
Garlic powder
Himalayan pink salt
Bragg 24 herb sprinkle, organic

Electric rice cooker

Steamed herbed quinoa and lentils ingredients

Steamed herbed quinoa and lentils ingredients

1. Measure and pour two cups of quinoa and 2 cups of yellow lentils into the rice cooker.
2. Add a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
3. Sprinkle some garlic power and Bragg’s 24 herb sprinkle.
4. Mix everything.
5. Add eight cups of water—my soft rule for steaming quinoa and lentils in a standard electric rice cooker is a ratio of 1 grain:2 water versus the usual white rice rule of 1 white rice: 1 water.
6. Turn the electric rice cooker switch to “cook rice” and let it go through its normal cooking cycle.

Last but not the least…

Mmm Green Mush

Mmm Green Mush

Never underestimate the power of dark greens. I just love greens in juices, smoothies, and sides.

1 bunch kale pulp, organic (saved from green juice)
1 bunch spinach pulp, organic (saved from green juice)
1 clove garlic, leftover from the tofu pan
1 lb snow pea pods
Ground black pepper
2 TBSP flax seeds, organic, ground fresh before use
Sesame seeds

Green mush ingredients.

Green mush ingredients.

1. Wash all vegetables thoroughly.
2. Cut hard ends of snow pea pods.
3. Chop snow pea pods.
4. Using the same cast iron skillet where the tofu was seared, reuse (with some of the coconut oil and garlic bits left) for quickly sautéing pea pods and green pulp. Make sure the setting is on low heat.
5. Sprinkle ground black pepper to taste.
6. When ready to serve, sprinkle two tablespoons of ground flax seeds and sesame seeds.

And, after eating all that, we are now pleasantly full.

The tiny oranges below are a good finish. Of course, drink plenty of fresh filtered water.



I hope you get to make some of these fun stuff for Meatless Mondays.

For now, my new season Walking Dead iTunes download is ready. Our real Monday night dessert. 🙂

Oh and by the way, each dish has all the protein you need. So no worries, just enjoy!


  1. Bradbury KE, Crowe FL, Appleby PN, Schmidt JA, Travis RC, Key, TJ. Serum concentrations of cholesterol, apolipoprotein A-I and apolipoprotein B in a total of 1694 meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68:178-183.  [via Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine]



Smoothie Improvisation: Apples, Cherries, Walnuts, Cranberries and More

The late afternoon sun is pouring through our windows, flooding my work perch and reminding me of how long it’s been since lunch. Now that we’re on the tail-end of our week’s worth of produce, making a smoothie snack calls for a bit of improvisational scrounging (though admittedly, improvisation is always part of my cooking style).

I gathered a few items likely to match with each other, resulting in this:

Apple Cherry  Walnut Smoothie in the VitamixSmoothie ingredients in the Vitamix, ready for blending.

2 medium apples I used organic Fuji apples this time.
1 handful strawberries These were getting a bit overripe in the fridge, but they were great for smoothies.
2 handfuls cranberries Pulled from the stash of fresh cranberries we just froze.
1 handful dried cherries Grabbed a bunch from the muesli reserve — handy to have dried fruits for a low-produce day like today!
1 handful dried goji berries
1 handful raw walnuts
dash whole flax seeds
dash chia seeds This reminds me of tiny boba or berry seeds. If you don’t care for that texture, leave out the chia.
1 tablespoon mango sorbet Scraping the bottom of the barrel of that leftover sorbet I used in my last smoothie recipe!
1–2 cups almond milk 1 cup resulted in a fairly thick drink, the way I like it. Use a bit more if you prefer yours thinner.

I dumped all of the ingredients except the chia seeds into the Vitamix and blended on high until smooth. I added the chia seeds last and blended on low just to stir them in.

Apple Cherry Walnut Smoothie

Apple, cherry, walnut, cranberry smoothie: a quick and tasty pick-me-up.

Groupie Tuesday—Matthieu Ricard

Gerry, myself, and Matthieu Ricard at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Houston, TX. June 2008.

Gerry, myself, and Matthieu Ricard after his lecture at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Houston, TX. June 2008.

Matthieu Ricard is called the “happiest person in the world.” He is a molecular geneticist, photographer, author, and monk.

On June 17th 2008, he visited Houston to give a talk on mindfulness meditation citing the research he co-authored with the University of Wisconsin’s Lutz, Greischar, Rawlings, and Davidson.

His talk later inspired me to pursue an aeromedical research project on mindful breathing as a possible fatigue countermeasure in long duration space flight.


Exploring Built Environments & Social Connection over Bukidnon & Saturday Yard Sales

Working on an independent study on Social Networks and Health, I guest posted at Orgcomplexity — an urban policy and complexity think tank.

So when Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed said in his TED City 2.0 Talk that “cities are where hope meets the street,” I agree. But I have to add that, often times, hope meets mountain paths and dusty village roads far from the city. Hope does not care whether we settle in on rolling hills or urban sprawl. Perhaps then, we should ask, where does this hope come from? Perhaps it’s not from the city street or rural lane, in particular, but wherever we are.

I live in one of Ohio’s Rust Belt cities. I love living in its downtown. It is just the right size for me. I love walking its streets. These same streets connect at some point to 70+ miles of bike and hike trails (my heaven). I am conscious of the plentiful green space options that surround my home, most within walking and biking distance.

Green spaces and connectedness of streets is as much of a must for me as community safety. What’s more, Midwestern hospitality is true — all true.  And though I see plenty of empty buildings, cracked brick walls, and tired structures, I can also see and feel the effort being made to keep it all alive. I am hopeful. This city inspires me.

Since many cities are not compatible with healthy daily life (I have lived in some of them), I started to mindfully explore the nooks and crannies of my current neighborhood. I’m sharing some here today and will certainly show you more next time. Before you move on to your next read, I’d like to leave you with a question I have asked myself while working on this project.

Does your environment help you thrive or cause you to wilt away?

As humans, we create — we build. We may build structures — soaring art or hulking defense. As humans, we are responsive to our internal as well as our external environments. As humans, we have the propensity to connect, to share, to exchange, to receive, to give, to develop, to innovate, to thrive… or to wilt away.

Creative destruction in action: the Dayton Daily News annex along Ludlow Street is in the process of being demolished.The adjacent Schwind Building has already been imploded, with only rubble remaining. Student housing for a nearby community college is replacing nearly an entire block of vacant buildings. Just out of the photo on the left is the neoclassical facade of the main Daily News building, which is being incorporated into the new construction.Creative destruction in action: the Dayton Daily News annex along Ludlow Street is in the process of being demolished.The adjacent Schwind Building has already been imploded, with only rubble remaining. Student housing for a nearby community college is replacing nearly an entire block of vacant buildings. Just out of the photo on the left is the neoclassical facade of the main Daily News building, which is being incorporated into the new construction.

Point This Magical Scanner At Your Food And It Will Count The Calories

From a mindful eating stand point, I think counting calories is as outdated and boring as BMI. Nonetheless, data is data. And data is king (or queen). Real information in real time at your fingertips would be fantastic.

So will this make you toss away that Moleskin or delete that food logging app that you call your best friend next to DailyMile and Smart Coach?

Would you want one of these? I probably would.

Today there are wearable trackers available for just about every move you make and step you take. Almost. If there’s a missing link, it’s the ability to track all the food that enters a person’s mouth. Dieters are stuck tediously logging their eating habits.

TellSpec, a device that’s quickly raising money on Indiegogo, claims to be that missing link and more. With a wave of the hand, the device can reportedly calculate all the calories, ingredients, chemicals, and allergens in any given piece of food.

Remember Jack Andraka, the then 15 year old who built a very low cost pancreatic cancer sensor and lately (at 16!) a handheld raman spectrometer?

This new food scanner, being built by Isabel Hoffman and Stephen Watson, uses the same technology.

Raman spectrometers, which essentially shoot lasers at objects and evaluate their chemical composition, used to be big, bulky instruments that sat in laboratories. These days, it’s entirely possible to make a handheld version. Hoffman’s question was whether it could do what she was looking for.

Imagine that. The 21st century behavior of compulsively taking food photos will have an actual purpose beyond Facebook feed noise and free advertisements for restaurants.


Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

Is this era coming?

Great article by Maryn McKenna writing for Medium. She is a journalist and author specializing in public health, global health and food policy.

Every inappropriate prescription and insufficient dose given in medicine would kill weak bacteria but let the strong survive. (As would the micro-dose “growth promoters” given in agriculture, which were invented a few years after Fleming spoke.) Bacteria can produce another generation in as little as twenty minutes; with tens of thousands of generations a year working out survival strategies, the organisms would soon overwhelm the potent new drugs.

In September, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a blunt warning: “If we’re not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we are already there.”