$10 Million Contest To Build A Real-Life Star Trek Tricorder Nears End

Matt Clark/Flickr

Jonathan O`Callaghan 13 Dec 2016, 14:00

A groundbreaking competition to develop a Star Trek-style tricorder device to diagnose medical ailments is nearing its end. There are now just two teams remaining, and the winner will be announced in April 2017.

The two finalists announced today, whittled down from 10 teams, are Dynamical Biomarkers Group, from Taiwan, and Final Frontier Medical Devices, from Pennsylvania. Both are attempting to scoop a $10 million prize by using their devices to successfully diagnose patients on a range of issues.

The goal of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is to create a small device, weighing no more than 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds), that can diagnose 13 health conditions (12 diseases and one absence of disease) in 90 minutes to 24 hours, depending on the condition.

As its name suggests, the prize was inspired by the medical devices used in Star Trek and, although they don’t perhaps share the same look, the devices are hoping to mimic some of the functions. In particular, they are designed to be non-invasive, just like in Star Trek, so a patient can diagnose themselves without having to prick their skin, for example.

“Imagine a portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions,” the competition says on its website. “That’s the technology envisioned by this competition, and it will allow unprecedented access to personal health metrics.”

The device from Dynamical Biomarkers Group. XPRIZE

The device from Final Frontier Medical Devices. XPRIZE

The Tricorder XPRIZE was started in 2012, with hundreds of teams initially registering interest. The XPRIZE foundation, which includes names like director James Cameron and Google's Larry Page on its board, runs competitions like this to encourage technological breakthroughs in certain areas.

Perhaps the most famous of the contests is the Ansari XPRIZE, which tasked teams with sending a spacecraft into space and back to Earth. It was won by SpaceShipOne in 2004, which was later bought by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. More recently, 16 teams are competing in the Lunar XPRIZE to land a rover on the Moon from next year.

Now, though, there are just months to go in the Tricorder competition. The two teams have handed over their completed devices to XPRIZE, and can only wait to see how they perform in clinical trials.


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