The AlieN DNA REconstructive Imager, or ANDREI, is a software suite first installed onto the CHS Hawking after construction was finished on the ship, but before she was launched. It then was offered at cost to any science ship wanting to visualize an alien race without having to set foot onto a planet, due to being below the threshold for contact as outlined in the Contact Directive, or simply that the race in question is simply too violent. However, the extreme expense of this suite is so high, that few ships have capitalized on this.
During the 170,000s, various species expressed concern about contact with other unknown species, as reports were piling up about various violent races outright destroying peaceful exploration vessels. The most vocal of these were the Delvans. Seeing a problem with what they told the higher ups in the Human race, Humanity decided to act. First, they gathered some of Earth's top award-winning programmers, and told them what they wanted to happen; to image an alien race without setting foot on their planet, or using highly-sensitive instruments that would risk detection. This in turn brought some of the leading DNA experts on board the project, codenamed "ANDREI". Several millenia later, in the 175,400s, the first version was released, to be used on the then-under-construction CHS Hawking.
Method of Operation
To access the alien DNA, the system relies on a tiny drone armed with a small collection array. This drone is at most 3cm long, and is built to withstand a planets entry heat. A ship sends around 30 of these out at a time. When they are on the surface, they try to locate an area of obvious civilizatiion, then attempts to collect a DNA sample from the civilization as clandestinely as they can. As soon as they have a sample, they immediately return to the ship, and docks with a special port that feeds the genetic material into the system itself for further processing.
The DNA is then analyzed by an incredibly sophisticated biological algorithm, and is cross referenced with the genetic material brought back by other drones. The system can form an incredibly accurate representation of the creature the source DNA came from to within approximately 0.1 millimeters dimensional accuracy, including colors, walking gait, and obviously size. It takes around 1 hour for the system to finish a render, and it is actually "grown" on screen from a special "null state" which the system loads when there is no DNA present.
The main system is capable of displaying alien species with up to 8 strands in their DNA, with a further 4 avaliable through installing a specialized script package.
Specific computer requirements were abolished in the 120,000s, as it was thought that any documented requirements going forward would be extremely cumbersome. So, instead of tons of numbers, a ship simply had to posses a wormhole drive, as it could use the energy that the drive uses to operate. It theoretically could operate even without a wormhole drive, but would likely take months to finish a scan without one.
Almost immediately, races with this technology noticed a drastic reduction in unprovoked attacks on their exploration vessels. These races were the first to give the new system a trial run, as the CHS Hawking was undergoing her shakedown cruise at the time. They tols the core group of people that worked on the suite, that incredibly, what the algorythm generated vs. what the real aliens looked like was extremely accurate, and they lauded this new breakthrough in exploration technology. Now they could explore with significantly reduced risks, and they relished that fact.
Even though the suite is vastly foolproof, it can be confused, such as the time during testing when a pet arachnid contaminated a horse sample. What was generated in the viewer was horrifying. At least 10 scientists on the project reported night tremors, and strange dreams for weeks after the test. In another test, human DNA was run through the imager, while it was still being cleaned of genetic material from female cattle. This time, rather than being horrifying, the result was apparently so hilarious that 5 workers were temporarily relieved of their duties.
Fortunately, the system in use has had no more of these incidents, although the scientists that work on the suite caution that they have not programmed it for EVERY scenario.