Thermometer, stethoscope... smartphone? Research from Worcester Polytechnic Institute shows that smartphones could replace anything from heart monitors to microscopes.
Researchers proved that simply pressing a patient's finger against a Motorola Android smartphone's camera, they could harvest data as accurately as the huge and expensive monitors used in hospitals.
Other researchers showed off using iPhone as a microscope - and an app that breathalyses you to 'tell' you if you are hungry enough for a snack.
Motorola Android phones were used to capture 'medical-grade' scans by simply by pressing a patient's finger up against the phone's camera and letting it 'see' the blood beneath
The WPI researchers found that the smartphone's camera could capture not only heart rate, but also rhythm, respiration and blood oxygen level - as accurately as clinical-grade monitors - simply by capturing video of blood pulsing in patients fingers.
Another group of researchers found that simply taping a 'ball lens' over an iPhone's camera could make it work as a medical microscope - the tiny ground-glass sphere magnifies images so much that you can see individual blood cells.
The 'hack' isn't as accurate as traditional microscopes - but could be useful for doctors on the move.
Professor Chon's team found that simply taking video of a patient's finger with a smartphone camera allowed them to make heart rate measurements as accurately as expensive clinical equipment
Apps such as the Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker require info from external monitors - the new research 'proves' that smartphones themselves could work as the monitors
At this week's CEATEC show in Japan,telecoms company NTT Docomo unveiled a Toshiba Regza smartphone that had different 'jackets' with sensors that can tell you whether you are 'hungry enough' for your next meal - by measuring levels of acetone in the body.
The phone's screen offers advice such as 'You are 50 per cent hungry. Refrain from snacking.'
Different jackets offer a radiation monitor, and a monitor that 'breathalyses' you for the odour-causing chemicals found in bad breath.
The phone might be too out-there even for Japan, though - NTT Docomo refused to confirm a release date for it.
The WPI researchers, though, were confident that their heart-monitor app was as accurate as normal medical monitors - they tested it 'against' normal monitors and compared the results.
The authors hope that patients could simply be given a mobile to self-monitor, then set loose.
They say the research proves that the app could work on many different models of smartphone.
'This gives a patient the ability to carry an accurate physiological monitor anywhere, without additional hardware beyond what's already included in many consumer mobile phones,' the authors write.
As the camera's light penetrates the skin, it reflects off of pulsing blood in the finger.
The application is able to correlate subtle shifts in the color of the reflected light with changes in the patient's vital signs.
Professor Ki Chon, who is an expert on signal processing, has previously developed algorithms that monitor a range of vital signs using traditional clinical devices like a Holter heart monitor. In the new study,
Chon found that the smartphone camera was jsut as accurate.
He is now working on an iPad version.
'Imagine a technician in a nursing home who is able to go into a patient's room, place the patient's finger on the camera of a tablet, and in that one step capture all their vital signs,' Chon said.
Details of the new technology are reported in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.