The Tricorder Could Be Just Around the Corner


I love Star Trek.  One of the things I like the best about Star Trek is the gadgets, and the gadget I have always thought was the coolest was the Tricorder.  There were, of course, two different Tricorders.  One was used to look at items in the environment to get away teams the info they needed to find people, to discover other objects and more.  The other is the Medical Tricorder that Dr. McCoy, Dr. Crusher and Dr. Bashir used to determine the extent of a red shirt’s injuries and other medical uses.  Now the Xprize foundation, with the help of Qualcomm, has a new contest with the goal of a functioning handheld medical instrument or the first medical Tricorder.

Prospective teams need to make their device to weigh in under 5lbs, detect critical health metrics and detect a set of 15 diseases.  The device can be of any form including a device that would plug into a cell phone, have sensors that attach to the patient, a small or large screen or even no screen.  The competition is open for teams interpretation of what the Tricorder will look like.  It also must include a way to store and share the information, and it must be remotely accessible via the Internet.  The winner of the Tricorder Xprize will receive 10 million dollars.


As a related prize, Nokia is sponsoring a $2.25 million dollars prize pool to accelerate the availability of hardware and software sensors in the medical field.  Two 1.125 million prizes will be given in two different events.

I am really excited by these challenges, as I think it really has a chance to drive innovation in the medical field.  Imagine going to the doctor and getting in and out of the office in less than 20 minutes.  No more waiting for tests as the doctor would instantly know if you have any of 15 different diseases.  Plus, unlike the original Ansari Xprize, I think that these challenges may actually result in better technology and better healthcare sooner rather than later.

While the original Xprize was a success, we are still years away from space travel becoming as common as flying in an airplane.  Virgin Galactic has yet to launch its first paid mission with SpaceShip Two still under going tests.  However, with these two Xprizes, I think that they could probably be made quicker and more widely available than the possibility of traveling in space which is still something only for the very rich.  This is tech that will help everyone as soon as the prize has been won, and that’s what makes it so awesome.

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.