The Star Trek Tricorder Becomes Real in Tech Competition
If you’ve seen Star Trek, then you may remember an awesome handheld device called a tricorder, the medical version of which could wirelessly collect bodily information of a patient and detect a range of diseases.
Obviously, it would be a medical dream come true if such technology became fact, and not just science fiction. And a competition launched last year could lead to that dream coming true!
The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize challenged anybody to develop such a device – using imaging and sensors to measure a patient’s vital signs and detect conditions in a way that isn’t as invasive as current methods.
The competition has now been whittled down to just 10 finalists, who have until the middle of next year to develop a workable prototype of their device in the hope of winning the $10 million (£6 million) prize.
Here are the teams that qualified:
1. Aezon Health – A team made up of students from John Hopkins University in Maryland in the US, working in partnership with Aegle (developing a Vitals Monitoring Unit), Biomeme (creating The Lab Box to diagnose diseases), SpiroSmart (a smartphone app) and Symcat (storing the user data).
2. Cloud Dx – This team from Canada owns four devices (collectively known as Vitaliti) created by health solutions company Biosign, which is also behind a vital-sign recorder already on the market that measures heart rate, blood pressure and variations in the pulse.
3. Danvantri – Named after the Indian medicine god, this team from India is developing a device that measures respiration, sleep and urinalysis, as well as tracking vitals.
4. DNA Medicine Institute (DMI) – From Boston, in the US, this team’s device is a universal blood sensor incorporated into a vital-sign strap that monitors the wearer’s data over 72 hours and includes a user interface that enables the user to analyse their own results.
5. Dynamical Biomarkers Group (DBG) – This team from Taiwan is made up of National Centre University members of the Centre for Dynamical Biomarkers and Translational Medicine. The device measures the user’s vital and can analyse breath, blood and urine.
6. Final Frontier Medical Devices – This team is from Basil Leaf Technologies based just outside of Philadelphia in the US. The device (called DxtER and pronounced “Dexter”) is capable of collecting and interpreting vast amounts of bodily information to diagnose specific medical conditions.
7. MESI – This Slovenian team is from a medical company that has developed a diagnostic tool that combines a smartphone app with a wearable bracelet. “Tailor-made therapies for each individual will ensure positive outcomes, making the sci-fi Tricorder a reality,” said the team, according to the competition’s website.
8. Scanadu – From California in the US, the team is behind the Scanadu Scout, which measures the standard vitals as well as providing a range of other functions, including an ECG, urinalysis, measuring stress levels, and measuring the oxygen levels in the user’s blood.
9. SCANurse – One of the two teams from the UK, this team from Kingston University in London has developed a user interface that engages consumers with a device that can identify a range of conditions from an ear infection to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) to Hepatitis A.
10. Zensor – The last finalist is from Belfast, Ireland, and medical company Intelesens. Among the other functions, this team’s device also includes a heart monitoring tool that triggers an alert if abnormal heart rates or fluctuations are registered.
The winning device is expected to be able to monitor five vital signs and accurately diagnose at least 15 different conditions. On top of these necessities, the technology must also be portable and able to deliver the information to the user in a way that could enable them to diagnose themselves without the aid of a doctor.
To determine the winner, all of the devices will be put to a consumer panel, scheduled for next year, with the final judging and awards ceremony to take place in the first half of 2016.
“Our selected finalists represent the most promising and innovative submissions as determined by our expert judging panel,” said Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize Senior Director Grant Campany. “We want consumers to take a more proactive approach to managing their health and having convenient access to real-time medical data will do just that.”
What should be taken from this competition is that it doesn’t matter which team is the winner. No matter which device triumphs in the end, the world will benefit from technology inspired by sci-fi, boldly going where no man has gone before, and potentially saving lives in the future. And that is what matters.