Kickstarter-backed Mobile Spectrometer Prepares To Ship First Units

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Tel Aviv, Israel-based consumer device startup Consumer Physics announces this week that it is preparing to ship its first batch of miniature spectrometers to developers, with a general release expected later this year. Consumer Physics launched in 2011 with the goal of building a pocket-sized device that could analyze food and report on its ingredients and caloric count. The company raised $1.9 million in VC funding led by Khosla Ventures, and then took its prototype to Kickstarter, where it raised an additional $2.7 million in crowdfunding from 13,000 backers. The campaign closed in June 2014 and the team has since gone on to raise an additional $10 million, bringing its total investment level to $14.5 million.

The spectrometer, called Scio, uses near-IR spectroscopy to determine the composition and quality of food, medicines, plants, and other materials. The technology has sound scientific and real-world validation. It is widely used in agriculture to verify product quality and is considered an ideal technology because it is cheap, reliable, and accurate. Consumer Physics is using the technology to build an all-purpose scanner for the general public.

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The Scio device will sync with Consumer Physics’ smartphone app to display the results of its chemical analysis. The team says that the device will be able to calculate the nutritional and caloric content of items, the purity of water, the ripeness of fruit, and will also detect whether food has spoiled. The device will also be able to identify pills. Rather than building the accompanying software entirely by itself, Consumer Physics has promised more than 1,000 developer kits to a wide variety of third-party application developers who will embed the technology into existing applications. These units were expected to ship in December 2014. They are now en route to the developer teams that will build out the Scio ecosystem in the coming months.

Consumer Physics had promised to have the units out the door by December 2014, and since the deadline’s passing, backers have been actively calling for more transparency and honesty around when the units can be expected, one frustrated donor complains, “I am one of three that pledged $10,000 to become a partner. We were to get the earliest samples and kits. Nothing so far and now over a year had past.”

Now, with units en route, consumers are hoping to see a general release near or before the 2015 holiday shopping season. Scio will retail for $250.


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