This Handheld Laser Could Replace the Vegetable Squeeze Test

Hello World visits Israel to try out SCiO, a pocket molecular sensor that can reveal the calorie count of a steak—or spot counterfeit drugs.

Hello World: Israel - Zap Your Way Through the Market

We’ve all squeezed a fruit to see if it’s ripe. What if you could gauge its exact calorie count and sugar and fat content while you were at it?

A startup in Israel called Consumer Physics has developed a keychain-size device called the SCiO that can shoot a beam of light at, say, an avocado and instantly tell you just that.

Above, Hello World host Ashlee Vance takes the SCiO for a spin in a Tel Aviv market, joined by Consumer Physics’s chief executive officer, Dror Sharon. They zap cheese, meat, and even a dog to figure out what makes them tick. Beyond analyzing food, the SCiO can spot watered-down fuel at the pump and even tell counterfeit drugs from real ones.

The device plays to Israel’s strength in computer chips. Consumer Physics has taken a big, boxy piece of scientific equipment known as a spectrometer and shrunk it down to a chip the size of a coin. By coupling the chip with a near-infrared light, the SCiO can stir up the molecules in an object and tell a story about its makeup. It has already caught the public’s attention through one of the biggest Kickstarter campaigns in Israel’s history, and Sharon hopes the technology will soon be small enough to fit in everyone’s cell phone.

Check out full episodes and more clips from the Hello World series here.

— With assistance by Ashlee Vance

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