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Tricorder: Android Homage To Star Trek



Application Name: Tricorder

Description: Multiple sensor data output, including GPS and compass; solar data.

Publisher’s website: moonblink

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.5.11  /  10-5-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


While comparing his Droid Incredible with my Droid X a few months ago, a friend commented that the sensor capabilities of the Droids reminded him of the tricorder from the original Star Trek series, a multi-purpose data collector and analyzer. What he didn’t know was that I had a copy of the Android Tricorder app on my unit that makes the connection even more explicit. I can’t say that I find it totally useful – I think there are better apps for many of the functions. But it’s fun to use to show off your Android’s capabilities, and it does have one feature related to GPS accuracy that might surprise you.

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Figure 1: A “gravity meter” monitors input from the orientation and accelerometer sensors.

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Figure 2: The magnetometer displays information from the unit’s magnetic sensor.

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Figure 3: An acoustic meter displays the waveform, spectrum, and noise level for input into the unit’s main microphone (here, me whistling a note).

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Figure 4: The geographic section displays location from both network data and GPS satellites; the former is a nice touch, since that data is either not presented by other GPS apps, or is superseded by the GPS data when a fix is acquired. The display at the bottom shows the satellite sky map, and a compass with both true (T) and magnetic (N) directions. Wouldn’t want to use it for navigation, though.

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Figure 5: Electromagnetic sensor shows the strength of the local WiFi networks, as well as that of the cellular network. There are lots of apps for the former, but I haven’t seen that many that show cellular network strength this clearly – a good alternative to the cell signal bars on your status bar.

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Figure 6: You might think that a solar activity sensor, showing downloaded solar data, might be interesting but not particularly useful. But the plots of proton/electron flux at the bottom can reflect on how accurate your GPS position measurement is. As the sun moves into a more active phase, these fluxes can affect conditions in the Earth’s ionosphere, which in turn can make GPS less accurate. So if you see those plots rising near the end, that would suggest that your GPS position might be less reliably accurate.

Other Issues:

None ; worked fine every time.

Final thoughts:

Perhaps not the best sensor app out there, but too cool in appearance and function not to have, and the solar data is hard to find elsewhere.


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