In the original Star Trek series from the 1960s, creator Gene Roddenberry needed a prop that allowed his characters to quickly gather information from a scene to advance the plot at television speeds. According to Wikipedia, “The word ‘tricorder’ is a portmanteau of ‘tri-’ and ‘recorder’, referring to the device’s three default scanning functions: GEO (geological), MET (meteorological), and BIO (biological).” The Tricorder proved a very useful device in advancing plotlines by quickly giving the characters enough information to make decisions and eventually Dr. Leonard McCoy started to carry around a medical Tricorder. Through the various incarnations of the Star Trek series pantheon, many more Tricorders appeared including ones “developed” by the Bajorans, the Ferengi, the Jem’Hadar, the Klingons, and the Romulans. Oh, and the Vulcans! How could I forget them?
Well, Qualcomm agrees that Tricorders are useful things and so the company has created an X Prize, along with a $10 million pot, to encourage the development of a real medical Tricorder. Here’s what the competition’s home page has to say:
“Advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, wireless sensing, imaging diagnostics, lab-on-a-chip, and molecular biology will enable better choices in when, where, and how individuals receive care, thus making healthcare more convenient, affordable, and accessible. The winner will be the team whose technology most accurately diagnoses a set of diseases independent of a healthcare professional or facility, and that provides the best consumer user experience with their device.”
Interested? Want some more help?
“As envisioned for this competition, the device will be a tool capable of capturing key health metrics and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases. Metrics for health could include such elements as blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. Ultimately, this tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurement of health states through a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements.”
“Beyond the weight requirement, there is no limit as to how many discrete components constitute a viable solution. For example, teams may use sensors that are attached to a phone-like control unit, fastened individually to the consumer, or kept apart and reserved for occasional use or home monitoring. Similarly, teams may create a tool that has a large screen, a small screen, or perhaps even no screen (audio only). Systems must include a way for consumers to store and share their information, which must be accessible remotely via the Internet. Additionally, teams are expected to follow guidelines and protocols that help ensure that consumer safety is held in the highest regard. This includes avoiding harm from electrical energy, thermal energy, chemical exposures, needles, lancets, and infection.”
Now there’s no denying that this truly will be a handy device. It will challenge designers to bring some of the most powerful silicon technologies to bear on the problem including sensors, RF, low-power, mixed-signal, SoC, and 3D assembly technologies—not to mention a boatload of software.
Buy wouldn’t it be grand to have such a device available? That’s the concept of the X Prize: to make something grand transition from a good idea to a realized artifact.