Aiming to “make 23rd Century science-fiction a 21st Century medical reality”, X Prize Foundation’s organizers have offered up a prize of $10 million (£6.5m) to anyone who can invent a Star Trek-alike medical ‘tricorder’ – influenced by the tool used by Spock and Bones in the popular sci-fi show. Launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the foundation’s competition page for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize reads:
“Imagine a portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions. That’s the technology envisioned by this competition, and it will allow unprecedented access to personal health metrics. The end result: Radical innovation in healthcare that will give individuals far greater choices in when, where, and how they receive care.”
The tricorder will also need to be light enough for portability – the competition’s maximum weight is 5lb (2.2kg) – while it must be able to capture “key health metrics” and be able to diagnose “a set of 15 diseases”. Consulting geek bible Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, the tricorder is described as a portable “sensing, computing and data communications device”. The tool was first used in the series’ first broadcast in 1966 and was seen diagnosing a patient simply by the crew’s doctor scanning a person’s body.
The X Prize Foundation is a non-profit organization whose “mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” with a tag-line that reads ‘Revolution through Competition’. Driving innovation through offering prize money to whoever can meet the design requirements of its projects, the foundation has been behind notable breakthroughs in science; including the 2004 Ansari X Prize for a privately funded reusable spacecraft which was awarded to SpaceShipOne, with many of the technologies developed later utilised by Virgin Galactic.
Don’t expect the prize to be handed out any time soon however. Although there are machines in existence that detect signs of ill health to aid diagnosis of patients, they can be as large as a small car. If there is someone out there who can condense such robust technology into portable form, then there’s hope for us all to live long and prosper.
Press-release source: Marketwatch