Star Trek has inspired the latest high-tech challenge from the X Prize Foundation, with organizers vowing to award $10 million US to whomever recreates the medical tricorder used in the TV and film franchise.
Foundation representatives and wireless tech firm Qualcomm issued the challenge at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. They hope to find developers for a real-life version of the futuristic handheld device typically used by Star Trek medical staffers to analyze and diagnose a patient's condition.
"Our goal is to literally revolutionize health care, to provide it literally in the palm of your hand," X Prize chair Peter Diamandis said in Las Vegas this week. The U.S.-based foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster innovation in different sectors and kick-start research and development via high-profile incentivized competitions.
The winning team must create a device that fulfills specific criteria, including:
- Accurately diagnose a set of 15 diseases across 30 consumers in three days.
- Capture and display real time data and health metrics, such as blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature.
- Enable consumers in any location to quickly and effectively assess health conditions.
The medical tricorder was first depicted in the original 1960s-era run of TV's Star Trek, which is set in the 23rd century. It was regularly used by Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (portrayed by DeForest Kelley) to scan his patients and a similar device was also used by science officers on the series.
A smaller and sleeker update of the medical tricorder was depicted in subsequent Star Trek films and latter TV incarnations such as The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
Organizers "seek to make 23rd century science fiction a 21st century medical reality," the two companies said in a statement.
Devices depicted in Star Trek have long influenced and inspired engineers and scientists to recreate the space-age technology in real life. Recent technology reminiscent of Star Trek devices include flip-style cellphones, laser weapons, wireless earpieces and touchscreen tablet computers.
Past editions of the X Prize have issued challenges to send a robot to the moon, create a privately-built and reuseable spacecraft and build a super fuel-efficient vehicle that can be easily mass-produced.