The Star Trek Tricorder, a device that allows medics to check their patients in the field in the sci-fi TV show, took a step closer to becoming reality today thanks to a new device being shown off by General Electric in the US.

The device, which is a cross between a mobile phone and an iPod was shown at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Called Vscan, the clamshell designed gadget is aimed at doctors, and possibly would-be parents who could use it in their office or in the field to check the progress of unborn babies or other medical instances, rather than sending their patients to a specialist department for a scan.

Jeff Immelt, GE's CEO, said that the device, which will be available sometime next year, will be "very digitally capable", coming with a small screen and the ability to save the images. It won't, however, feature Wi-Fi connectivity which would give it the ability to send images to others.