avacado avacado Always wondering how ripe your avocado is? A new device can help. (Photo: Chad Miller / Flickr)

How ripe is your avocado? This new app knows

New handheld spectrometer and app knows how ripe an avocado is by scanning its molecular fingerprint. And that's just the beginning.

Want to know if the avocado in the grocery store is ripe enough to make guacamole? A new scanning device called SCIO can determine in five seconds if a hard avocado will be ripe in a day or two, or if a soft one has passed its prime.

The secret to SCIO's futuristic shopping tool is near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS as its users (and those who don’t want to fumble over the word spectroscopy) call it. NIRS scans the molecular fingerprint of an object, evaluates that fingerprint, and then provides information about the object’s chemical makeup. Until now, NIRS technology has been confined to labs because of the size and expense of the device. SCIO has brought the technology to consumers' pockets.

Dror Sharon and Damian Goldring, founders of Consumer Physics, Inc. in Tel Aviv, and their team of scientists, engineers and designers, created SCIO, a molecular sensor that fits in the palm of the hand, with the vision to bring the powerful technology of NIRS to everyone. They created a mass-produced hand-held spectrometer that has immediate uses as well as the ability to satisfy the naturally curious.

For consumers, the SCIO has practical benefits. 

“I put avocados in guacamole, salads, sandwiches, wraps and eat them cut up paired with ripe tomato,” Teresa Campbell, a home cook from New Jersey who eats avocados several times a week, told From The Grapevine. She can usually use her sense of touch to avoid buying unripe ones, but not overly ripe ones. “I could use the SCIO to make sure the avocados I buy won’t be brown inside when I cut them open.”

The device can also determine if the bargain-brand extra virgin olive oil on the store shelf is authentically extra virgin, calculate the number of calories in food for the health-conscious, and determine if the painkiller taken out of its container and put in a travel pill box is ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

For the curious, SCIO goes far beyond sending back need-to-know information. It learns as it scans. SCIO users will help to create the world’s first database of matter. The information about the materials scanned is sent not only to a user's smartphone but also to a larger database. The possibilities for use in education, food systems, the environment, research and medicine are endless.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $2.7 million, SCIO is well on its way to getting into consumers’ hands. The first spectrometers will go to the Kickstarter participants, but pre-orders are also being taken for an expected March 2015 shipping date to anyone who wants one.

Early users of SCIO will be able to impress their friends with their futuristic technology. Scans and photos of the objects scanned are easily shared with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

The basic SCIO is $249 and includes all future applications developed by Consumer Physics for the next two years. Developer and researcher versions also allow users to do things like develop apps or download their samples to a PC and work with them using any tool they choose.

“We want to open this up to a developer community and start selling this to people who want to explore the world,” Sharon told VentureBeat. “They can keep their own databases. The more we measure, the more we learn. The more everybody learns.”

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