A year ago, Tel Aviv-based company Consumer Physics shattered all expectations with the launch of its cutting edge pocket spectrometer named SCiO.
A USB-sized device that can read and analyze the molecular composition of any physical object, SCiO raised $2.8 million on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, well surpassing its initial request for a measly $200,000. “We didn’t expect such a huge and wonderful result,” Dror Sharon, cofounder of Consumer Physics, which is behing SCiO, tells NoCamels, “Frankly we didn’t know what to expect. We thought this product would appeal to the geeks of the world but it seems there are many more people that this product resonates with.”
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Now as the device is set to be shipped to its initial backers this summer, Sharon conveys the company’s goal of creating what could be called an encyclopedia of the physical world, “Every day we Google the things we want to know, but we can’t Google the physical stuff around us. SCiO’s goal in this endeavor is to enable as many users to create what will eventually become a large database of elements from the physical world.”
Delivering on their promise
For those readers without a degree in physics, SCiO is basically a tiny spectrometer, a device that measures the intensity of physical elements. These readings can then be classified into more useful molecular information about the object in front of you, like for example the number of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, proteins in your meal; or the freshness of your apple; or the water levels of your plant.
“This device makes it simple to find out exactly what you are eating or what you’re about to buy. It’ll be as easy as taking a photo, uploading it to your smartphone and sharing it with your friends,” says Sharon of potential real-world applications for his product that syncs with an available Apple and Android app that keeps track of what users scan.
Ask any scientist or science fiction fan and they will tell you that making a mini spectrometer is an impressive feat, which is why the team at Consumer Physics remains focused on delivering their promise, shipping out the initial versions of the SCiO spectrometer ordered over Kickstarter this summer.
According to Sharon, there aren’t any new features in the works as of yet and instead the funds raised in the Kickstarter campaign are being used to redesign a more robust product that can be manufactured in high volumes. In addition, Consumer Physics will come out with a protective cover to safeguard the optical sensor used to scan items.
You can already get your hands on SCiO
One of the downsides that wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns often face after funding is that of course, they must deliver, and in the case of SCiO, in big numbers. Sharon reports that this stage peeling off (relatively) without a hitch, which means that Consumer Physics is probably doing a good job of figuring out how to properly divide their crowd-derived funds between production, shipping, and development. However, it’s worth noting that CrunchBase and other sources report that Consumer Physics had about $4 million in funding even before its campaign on Kickstarter, That initial funding had come from equity crowfunding firm OurCrowd; from Dov Moran, the inventor of the flash drive; from Khosla Ventures and others. And then in August, just a couple of months after the Kickstarter campaign closed, Consumer Physics raised an additional $10.5 million in venture capital that is a further boost in getting their product out on time.
Part of the product’s success is due to its seamless and intuitive user experience. Training takes just three seconds: pair SCiO to your phone, point it towards an object, and press the button. Moments later, SCiO can analyze the chemical makeup of any physical object, send the data up to the cloud and send its assessment right back to you.
“We want to deliver a magical experience that people find useful,” says Sharon. “If it doesn’t help solve problems, make life easier or bring value and joy into their lives than it wont matter.”
Now SCiO, priced at $249.00, and its developer and education kits are available for pre-orders on the company’s website, a quick turn-over time for a gadget that has only been around for a year. With well over 13,000 SCiOs ordered so far, design work and software development are still being finalized to ensure an excellent customer experience. “We are doing everything that we can to debunk the system and product. To launch without any bugs is rare, but we will do as much as humanly possible to fix every bug and every issue that arises with the technology,” Sharon contends.
Just pair, point, and press
The founders of SCiO have essentially made an entire realm of complex knowledge, i.e. molecular biology, available to the masses. Currently it only has one rival in the field, a Canadian company called TellSpec that uses similar spectrometer technology to scan the chemical composition of food, but that’s where the similarities end.
Sharon explains that SCiO is really about the endless possibilities of life under a spectrometer. “We are not focused on a specific application, rather we are enabling other developers to create unique ways to use this technology.” Eventually the company hopes to adorn every smartphone with a miniaturized version of SCiO so that users can readily scan items and add to the growing database of molecular knowledge.