This is about a great project to make an open source, universal sensing instrument. The name was popularized in a science fiction series - Star Trek I believe it was - where they were never without one when visiting a new planet or some unfamiliar environment.
While this one starts out very modestly, it has the potential to become a real powerhouse of personal sensor, better than anything we have today.
"The Tricorder X-Prize aims to bring a diverse array of inexpensive sensors together in an accessible, easy to use, handheld design. On Jan 12, 2012, the contest was officially opened at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."
"Dr. Jansen’s Mark 2 runs on Linux. The hardware includes an ARM Atmel microcontroller squeezed into a clam-shell with two OLED touchscreens. Schematics, board layouts, and the firmware is all available free and includes the initial proof-of-concept device."
There is also a blog about how it's made, by the guy behind the project...