TellSpec, the handheld spectrometer

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the sites to discover the most intriguing new hardware, and an example is TellSpec, a handheld spectrometer that was funded by an Indiegogo campaign. As described on the website, the TellSpec combines “a spectrometer and a unique algorithm to tell you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food.”

Some of the mockups of the TellSpec being pointed at food items and sending data to the iPhone app look they were made with ClipArt in an old version of Powerpoint (is that a first generation iPhone?!), but they have time to improve the visual design of the interface. The real power is in the spectrometry, and if that really works, in a device you can hang on your keychain, that's very exciting.

Improving the diets of Americans has proven so difficult over the years, but I do believe in heightened transparency. For me, the most eye-opening experience in making the invisible visible was the time I was at the in France on a Tour de France cycling vacation and my roommate lent me his glucose monitor. Taking a reading after eating each meal and seeing my blood sugar spike transformed an ordinary baguette into a lethal pulmonary bludgeon. If I didn't have to prick my finger and draw blood to take readings at every meal, I'd buy a glucose monitor and use it regularly.

Some restaurants print calorie counts on their menus, and others even include some information about basic carbohydrate, sugar, protein, and fat content, but the TellSpec could potentially provide that for any ingredient on your plate.

The Indiegogo campaign concluded, but you can preorder one for $320 from the TellSpec website.