Everything Sensor

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Mr. Spock can detect anything with the tricorder.

Tricorder: widdily-wee! widdily-wee! widdily-wee!

Spock: 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 will always come with an Enhance Button. 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 EverythingCensor. Compare The Little Detecto, a more specialized device.

Examples of Everything Sensor include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 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.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Chachamaru's is built-right-in.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Pitt: Somehow a radar operator can instantly tell without independent verification when a city has turned into a crater.

Technician: 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!

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In the Harry Potter fic 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".

Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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[edit | hide]

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • In the original series, K-9 often had this ability, such as detecting approaching monsters or instantly mapping out underground caves.
    • In "Planet of the Dead", Malcolm's equipment can't detect a wormhole. So he makes it display what it can't detect, and that shows the wormhole just fine.
    • The Doctor also has a timey-wimey detector, which goes ding when there's stuff. (And can boil an egg at 30 paces, whether you want it to or not.) That might be one of these, but who knows?
  • 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 recent 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.
  • In Max Headroom the "System" (IE the internet) worked like this.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • 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.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Metroid Prime: Incoming Scan Data...
  • In the Space Stage in Spore, your ship is equipped with a scanner that can identify any animal, plant, or vehicle.
    • Actually there is more, apparently the scanner already have this info (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.
      • Maybe the long-range sensors can detect unidentified things, but only the short-range scanner can identify them
  • 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: Guns of the Patriots. 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.
  • The "sensors" in Starcraft 2 are able to detect whatever is convenient for the plot.
  • Played straight with the Detective Skull, which tells you important stats of the monster you're fighting...then parodied by the Defective Skull joke item in Kingdom of Loathing, 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.
  • TimeShift: 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 to scan and interface with anything, from doors, computers and weapons, to 50,000-year-old alien technology that no-one has seen before. They can also take pictures.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution has all sorts of useful information 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 depended on which augmentations you have active of course.

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • 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 here
  • 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.