can detect anything with the tricorder. Even that, yep.
Tricorder: widdily-wee! widdily-wee! widdily-wee!
Captain, this entire planet is made of widdily-wee.
In space, no one can hear you scream. Unless they're using an Everything Sensor.
The Everything Sensor comes standard on the Cool Ship
, and it does what it says on the box: It can detect and analyze anything. Literally anything
. The Negative Space Wedgie
, the Lost Technology
, the Green Rocks
, or whatever other Unknown Phenomenon
our plucky explorers of space happen to run into. (Odd since, if it's an Unknown Phenomenon
, how would the ship designers know to install something that could detect it? Those are some Crazy-Prepared
engineers there...) It can even detect whether the ship is being scanned by someone else's
It will always come with an Enhance Button
and at least one Thing-O-Meter
. Sometimes its Readings Are Off the Scale
If for some plot-based reason you need it to not
see something, this is usually excused at the climax by "we didn't set it to scan for that in particular, but now that we know what we're looking for..." In rare cases, the Everything Sensor can't see the Techno Babble
directly, but it can detect some byproduct of it. And if nothing else, you can always recalibrate the sensor by Reversing the Polarity
In fact nearly every Cool Ship
in a sci-fi franchise has some kind of sensor that can detect "lifeform readings
" from orbit.
Not to be confused with an Everything Censor.
Compare The Little Detecto
, a more specialized device.
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- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chachamaru's is built-right-in.
- In Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury's mini-computer could zero in on pretty much anything you'd call phlebotinum. It came in handy less often than you'd think.
- The Pitt: Somehow a radar operator can instantly tell without independent verification when a city has turned into a crater.
If I'm readin' this right, Pittsburgh
just turned into a crater — fifty miles across! Officer:
Great Godawmighty! He's right!! That's the only way to interpret that image!
- The Legion of Super-Heroes uses a handheld device called an Omnicom.
- In Make a Wish, Harry asked a mad scientist friend of his to come up with something that could "detect poisons and things". Upon producing a nifty little doodad called a Hex-Quarter, its inventor said that it also "can detect wards, has several forensic charms, several diagnostic charms, a database of plants and animals, and much much more".
- in Europa Report, they have a sensor that can not only scan for the life on ice, but display a full 3D graphic of the life faster than a person with a microscope could do so.
- In The History of the Galaxy books, pretty much all sensors act this way. The author usually mentions that the sensors simply return the "energy signature" of the target, and it's up to either the operator or the machine to figure out what it could be based on known signatures. Space Marines are trained to be able to identify signatures at a glance. In one novel, a Space Marine gets empathic powers, allowing him to "see" nervous systems of living creatures. Instinctively, he combines this ability with his training, which allows him to shoot shapeshifters in the brain (i.e. the largest collections of neurons he sees).
- Specially-trained humans with multiple implants in their heads (known as cybreakers or mnemonics) are likewise able to scan their surroundings without any external devices. In fact, they are even able to see the force lines inside Hypersphere.
- In the Boundary series, A.J. Baker uses nanotechnological "Faerie Dust" to scan just about everything for everything. Justified in that the Dust's capabilities are fairly well defined and based on actual research work being done now and extended into the future; the Dust Motes are very small computing devices with micro-scale sensors and actuators but can act in concert wirelessly, within limits of the power available and their programming.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek is easily the biggest user of this trope.
- Interestingly, one episode of Star Trek: Voyager featured them finding the wreck of an early 21st century Mars mission ship which appeared to be the first to mount an Everything Sensor - that's virtually how it was described!
- Tricorders are all-purpose detectors for whatever Green Rocks or Phlebotinum residue they're looking for this week.
- When they scan a ship for "life", they appear to actually scan for "life" — it is pointed out at least once in The Next Generation that their sensors can pick up artificial life, such as androids.
- And in Deep Space Nine they find a tiny little miniature universe and their sensors can detect there is life in it. In this case, they explicitly infer the presence of life based on "localized decreases in entropy" (things were not as random within specific areas within the micro-verse in specific ways which indicated life-forms were responsible)
- Technically, the ships have many different types of sensors (visible, electromagnetic spectrum, radiation, particles, gravity, subspace, etc.) and sometimes sensors of one type may be damaged or offline while others are not.
- This in turn is aided by the ship's computer which is sophisticated enough to simulate fully sapient beings (at least from The Next Generation onward). The computer is frequently shown being able to theorize and extrapolate from available data based on spoken natural language commands. So the computer is piecing together evidence from a wide array of sensors.
- The Robot on Lost in Space definitely had one installed.
- Firefly actually didn't have an Everything Sensor, interestingly enough. While it was certainly possible to scan ships from a distance, the information provided seemed limited, such as scanning for lifeforms (or rather for heat signatures that could be life forms), scanning for model/type of ship, and scanning for radiation. The Alliance, on the other hand, may have something approaching an Everything Sensor.
- In Doctor Who (especially the revival series) the Doctor's sonic screwdriver can act as an Everything Sensor, e.g. as a medical scanner in "The Empty Child", where it also appears to be an Unusually Uninteresting Sight for the contemporary WWII surgeon watching him.
- Stargate SG-1, when mankind learned to build starships, we also got the bonus package of sensors that can pinpoint life form readings and all energy sources from orbit. It also plays with it a bit, since the initial Earth-designed sensors were rather poor, needing ground teams to tag objects with beacons before they could localise them. An upgrade from the friendly neighbourhood Asgard solved the problem about the time the Daedalus was introduced.
- Heavily lampshaded in the Red Dwarf revival. The gang are in a TV store (No Fourth Wall) where a salesman is discussing the show and talking about how stupid the 'psi scan' Kryten uses is. At the same time Kryten psi-scans him, before telling the others the guy's name, address, clothing size, the fact that he's a jerk and that he has a very small penis as a result of the scans data. Toyed with further - Rimmer asks how the scan could possibly have found that and Kryten explains it was a simple matter of the machine hacking into his email account.
- Parodied in the opposite direction in an earlier episode, when Kryten scans the crew to see if they've been infected by mutated diseases. After beeping and whirring for several seconds, it turns out that the most accurate the scan can get is "going to live".
- In Max Headroom the "System" (IE the internet) worked like this.
- Power Rangers Turbo has the Turbo Navigators. Later, Power Rangers in Space would use the AmScanners for much the same things.
- Sensors even aboard a Space Fighter in Babylon 5 can scan for life readings aboard other ships. While it could be interpreted as scanning for heat signatures, it's also clearly established that one is also able to scan for dead lifeforms. How those are distinguished from the surrounding materials is not clear. This comes up in an episode when Garibaldi, flying a StarFury, has the fighter's computer scan a transport ship for life signs. The computer reports the number of life forms it found. Garibaldi even asks for confirmation that the computer didn't make a mistake in the terms (i.e. the people aboard the transport are all dead).
- We also frequently hear someone reporting an energy spike just before weapons begin firing. This one might be justified, though.
- Dick Tracy's original two-way wrist radio evolved over the decades into the wrist TV, and finally into the "wrist computer," described as a kind of portable crime lab. While not really on par with most of the gizmos on this page, it's still a much nicer portable analyzing device than anything we have yet in real life. The current version is called a "wrist geenee," basically the same thing with a few more bells and whistles.
- GURPS 4e simply refers to this as "para-radar" with the note that it does not mimic any realistic sense.
- The Ultra-Tech sourcebook actually has such devices, known as "Ultrascanners", which can used as radars, along with scanning for radiation and biological lifeforms, as well as allowing detailed analysis from a distance with scientific skills such as Chemistry and Physics.
- Metroid Prime: Incoming Scan Data...
- It's not just a scanner, it also translates ancient (dead?) languages, and hacks everything. One scan data from a Space Pirate terminal talks about how the Hunter is casually annihilating their best encryptions.
- There's also a passive sensor that alerts Samus to environmental dangers, such as fire or lava.
- In the Space Stage in Spore, your ship is equipped with a scanner that can identify any animal, plant or vehicle. It can point you towards missing objects, when you don't know where they are but for some reason you still have to scan it manually.
- Star Control 2. When you go to a planet, you can scan it in one of three different ways: Scan for minerals, scan for life forms, or scan for energy readings (though it won't tell you much about the readings you get... you have to land on the surface to find out what's what). Also, scanning will give you other information about the planet, such as its tectonic movements, level of hazardous weather, average surface temperature, and gravity. Oh, and there's also an autoscan feature which does all three basic scans one after another, showing you anything you'd need to know about the planet.
- Solid Snake gets an eyepatch that acts as an Everything Sensor in Metal Gear Solid 4. It can scan the faction affiliation, health level, emotional state, and gun equipped of any soldier you look at. Considering that a large part of the setting of that game is that everyone is connected to a huge system that monitors all these things on a global scale, it is perhaps simply tapping into that.
- Norman Jayden in Heavy Rain has a pair of VR Goggles that allow him to scan crime scenes for all sorts of stuff that most CSI labs would take weeks to analyze, including DNA. Note that the game takes place in 2011 (one year into the future for its year of release). It also has a couple of minigames he can play like a "Throw ball at a brick wall" simulation.
- In StarCraft II, the "sensors" are able to detect whatever is convenient for the plot.
- Kingdom of Loathing plays this straight with the Detective Skull, which tells you important stats of the monster you're fighting...then parodies it with the Defective Skull joke item, which is an Everything Sensor that only gives useless information. For example, it might tell you that the monster you're fighting has Hit Points (but not how many), or pick a random, absurdly high number and say the monster has that many hit points, or say that it has "approximately eleventy-seven hojillion" hit points.
- In Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, Radd Spencer is given a "bio-vision scanner" that allows him to analyze pick-up items, enemies, grabbable objects, and even boss weaknesses.
- Time Shift: Your on board A.I warns you about electrical hazards, fire hazards, quantum anomalies, shielded enemies, structural instabilities and...concealed threats, which could be landmines, enemies about to burst though doors or giant mechs tearing up the place. You can only tell which one after they happen, making the warning slightly less useful.
- Omni-tools in Mass Effect seem capable of scanning and interfacing with anything, from doors, computers and weapons, to 50,000-year-old alien technology that no-one has seen before. They can also be used as a camera, a phone and a flashlight. In 3 they can also stab things.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Your cyborg self has all sorts of useful information available including persuasion level, if the target is unconscious or dead, the amount of time it take for a target to get bored looking for you, the vision cones of enemies and the last place enemies were looking for you. All dependent on which augmentations you have active, of course.
- Justified, because the information you see is being fed to you by a half-dozen different augmentations.
- Futurama uses this as a fashion accessory. In the regular cast, Amy and Leela both have "Wristlojackameters", but only Leela's gets frequent use. Functions include tracing, transmission reception, and assurance that the food on a planet is edible.
- Kim Possible's Kimmunicator included sensors for absolutely anything she needed, from GPS to identifying plant samples to scanning someone's brain for evil.
- In WALL•E, the captain drops some dirt "into" a sensor and asks the computer to analyze it. While we never see it analyze anything else, the way that computer responded is a good indication that it can dig up the dirt on just about anything it's presented with.
- The Google Android platform has an experimental app called "Google Goggles" which is a step in that direction. It uses the camera to analyze photos and display information on book covers, artwork, landmarks, or restaurants.
- Smartphones in general. Current smartphones have accelerometer, magnetometer, microphone, cameras, proximity sensor, lighting sensor, thermometer, GPS. No wonder there is a tricorder app downloadable for Android.
- Hyperspectral sensors allow there to be so much information in an image that a computer can determine exactly what materials everything in it is made of.
- Clearly fraudulent, but cute nonetheless: one company in America makes dowsing rods that can detect anything from lost golf balls to marijuana in school lockers.
- Not so cute when used to detect bombs. It gives a false sense of security.
- In 2010 a man was arrested for selling such bomb detectors to Iraq. Iraqi officials accused him of causing thousands of deaths, because police relied on his detectors and didn't notice explosives.
- The saddest part? If you type "bomb detecting dowsing rod demonstrates danger of pseudoscience" into a search engine, the first results are links to yet another such swindler.
- Recently, an X-Prize-like competition has been launched that will reward whoever comes up with a small, portable device similar to a tricorder that can take accurate medical readings off of a patient with a minimum of intrusion (including heart rate, glucose, arterial pressure and infections), and possibly even give a diagnosis. It's believed that it would be invaluable in Third World countries where experienced doctors are hard to come by.
- There are handheld scanner/computer units that identify materials, chemicals, drugs, etc, using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy — just point to the item and press the button.