Zoe Schoon from Christie's auction rooms in London displays a Tricorder Prop from the “Star Trek” TV series, estimated to cost $500 to $700. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH)

The tricorder.

Beloved by nearly every science fiction fan (and some non-fans), the handheld scanner and data analysis device featured throughout the fictional “Star Trek” universe was among many that served to prime society for the smartphone, the tablet and other digital handheld tools and toys. The interface is so popular there’s even an app for it.

The tricorder itself has evolved over time, going from the size of an over-the-shoulder mini-briefcase to a hand-held flip phone.

Organizations and individuals have long sought, with varying degrees of success, to create a real-life tricorder able to monitor the world around us and the worlds beyond. One of the more recent success stories, as reported by Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul on Wednesday, is that of technologist Peter Jansen, the founder of “The Tricorder Project.” Jansen’s “labor of love,” as he calls it, is to build a tricorder that delivers data readouts on distance and motion among other measurements. (No alien life form sensor yet.)

“For me, the tricorder project is really about curiosity,” says Jansen in a YouTube video published Tuesday. Jansen created two Tricorder models and posted the specifications for both on his Web site.

“The idea is that by turning, say, a walk home through the park into a nature walk, that everyday experiences will become opportunities for learning,” said Jansen, going on to say, “My hope is that kids will use that to develop this intuitive understanding and deep, conceptual level fluency with the science of the everyday world.”

Jansen is not the first to create a tricorder or tricorder-like device, and he almost certainly won’t be the last. In fact, in January, the Qualcomm Foundation teamed up with the X Prize Foundation “to launch the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The $10 million prize will go to the team that successfully creates a tricorder-like device capable of diagnosing 15 diseases in 30 countries over the course of three days. And, of course, the device has to be fun, easy to use and, after providing a diagnosis, accurately tell users what they should do next. In essence: Create handheld health care.

Jansen’s venture is not affiliated with the Qualcomm/X Prize effort, although he features it prominently on his Web site.

What do you think: Will you see health care in the palm of your hand in your lifetime?

Read more on Ars Technica.

View Photo Gallery: Some of the world’s greatest inventions have science fiction to thank for their easy-adoption and popularity among consumers.

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