Inspired by Star Trek, $10 Million X-Prize Searches for Real-Life Tricorder

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 10 2012 3:23 PM

Inspired by Star Trek, $10 Million X-Prize Searches for Real-Life Tricorder

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 10: Chairman and CEO, X Prize Foundation, Dr. Peter Diamandis speaks during a presentation by Qualcomm at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at The Venetian on January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 13 and is expected to feature 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 140,000 attendees. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last year, the X-Prize Foundation and the technology company Qualcomm announced that they would be starting a $10 million competition to create a real-life medical tricorder—the Star Trek device that helps doctors diagnose patients and collect data.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show, X-Prize’s Peter Diamandis shared more details. He hopes that the winning device will “allow a user to diagnose themselves without having to visit a doctor or hospital,” he tweeted. Final guidelines won’t be available until September of this year; however, teams can fill out intent-to-compete forms now. (One sure entrant: the company Scanadu, headquartered at NASA’s Ames Research Center, which has been working on a tricorder since January 2011.) The Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize website says that the following will be required of the winner:

Diagnose diseases
Provide ongoing metrics of health (vitals)
Allow monitoring or continuous use of sensors to diagnose and measure health
Provide awareness of health state
Give confirmation that everything is ok with a consumer
Notify that something is not ok (a "check engine light")

In October, Diamandis took part in a Future Tense event on the future of energy and took a minute to talk to us briefly about his vision for the tricorder X-Prize: artificial intelligence, RNA and DNA analysis, and more.

Recently, Canada announced its own plans to fund research into a tricorder-esque gizmo. While Diamandis envisions a doctor-free diagnostic process, Canada is looking for “a handheld device that doctors could use to diagnose patients far from medical labs,” according to the Associated Press.

Read more on CNet.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.


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