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Handhelds Science Technology

$10M Tricorder X PRIZE Kicks off 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-a-doctor-not-an-angry-birds-machine dept.
Back in May, we heard about Qualcomm's plans to hammer out details for an X PRIZE competition to invent a Star Trek-style tricorder. Now, reader Sven-Erik sends word that the requirements have been finalized and the competition has launched. "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. Given that each team will take its own approach to design and functionality, the device's physical appearance and functionality may vary immensely from team to team. Indeed, the only stated limit on form is that the mass of its components together must be no greater than five pounds."
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$10M Tricorder X PRIZE Kicks off

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  • by FlopEJoe (784551) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:05PM (#38675094)
    You start it up and it prints: "It's Lupus"
  • by notgm (1069012) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:06PM (#38675108)

    i'm building an ER in a zeppelin.

    • by manoweb (1993306)
      Apparently they specified mass, not weight :)
      • by Anonymous Coward

        They said mass, but used "pounds" as their unit of measurement, which is odd because imperial pounds only measure weight, not mass. So, er Zeppelin? Maybe....

        • I hope the er Zeppelin plays "Sick Again" when it finds something wrong.
        • Really? AFAIK U.S. pounds are defined from kilogram which is a unit of mass, not weight.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Not so. There are two systems:

          pounds (force) and slugs (mass)

          poundals (force) and pounds (mass)

          The first is the more common.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            And a pound (mass) subjected to standard earth gravity creates a force equal to a pound (force in either system). So specifying a mass of 5 pounds is pretty straightforward.

            It's really not any more confusing than the fact that metric countries frequently refer to forces in kilograms.

    • by BoberFett (127537)

      Oh the humanity!

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:13PM (#38675210)
    I hope it has to make the sound.
    /or it could go ping; but it wouldn't be the same.
  • A mass of no more than 5 pounds? Shouldn't that be either a weight of no more than 5 pounds or a mass of no more than ~2.25 Kg?

    They need to mush home with the teacher.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Borg implants can cause severe skin irritations. Perhaps you'd like an analgesic balm.....

  • Does it also have to make that 1960's cool StrarTrek sound?
  • Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyr07 (2300912) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:27PM (#38675450)

    Events like this are really great, it really spurs innovation.

    It encourages people to think outside the box and build something normally only researched if there's great market value. If companies are making fair change with current products, they'll milk research till later and slowly release tech to keep the market at the right level of saturation.

    The fact that a reward to cover research expenses and advance technology like that is just out there is great. It might not be perfect, whatever is developed, but it's a start in a good direction. It might not be a mass marketed product, the original anyway, but that 10 mill will at least get the ball rolling.

    • RE: Events like this are really great, it really spurs innovation.

      No, that's what patents were invented for. /Maniacal laughter

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      My entry is ready now. It's a hollowed out brick of lead with a flap on one side and a display screen painted on the other. The screen reads 'acute radiation poisoning'. The devices inner working are a trade secret.

    • $10M probably does not even come close to covering the R&D costs for something like this, if it is even possible (I can't access the sit through my corporate firewall) - I suspect it will provide no incentive for anyone serious - it would be a rip off for everyone who competes and does not win, what a great way to get 100M in reseach for only 10M, because you would not have to pay for all the blind alleys the losers went down, if they want it they should just pay for the god-damn research and do it them
      • by Tyr07 (2300912)

        Sorry, it must have seemed like I was implying it would be a sufficiently reliable tool to place into medical use immediately and start production.

        It never said anything about accuracy margins or what illnesses it had to detect. With that in mind, you can probably develop something that is functional and can potentially identifying fifteen different diseases within a certain percentage of accuracy.

        I'm sure they have rules for accuracy, but not knowing what they are means there's a chance that the device doe

      • by MickLinux (579158)

        Nonsense. The trick is to find standard technologies that can read and predict diseases.

        (1) Laser or infrared thermometer. Check.
        (2) Some form of paper chromatography tests. Get 'em from your hardware store. Check.
        (3) Various voltage electrode readings. Have your doctor give you an EKG in the standard physical, and take home with you the electrodes. Check.
        (4) A videocamera, an optical fine-focus camera, and a lense

        • (7) Lots and lots of programming. Ideally the tricorder should talk to the person, and listen to their answers, including such things as, "what seems to be the problem?" to get symptoms that it can look up.

          Wouldn't "Please state the nature of the medical emergency" be more apropos?

      • by MickLinux (579158)

        Nonsense. The trick is to find standard technologies that can read and predict diseases.

        (1) Laser or infrared thermometer.
        (2) Some form of paper chromatography tests. Get 'em from your pharmacy .
        (3) Various voltage electrode readings. Have your doctor give you an EKG in the standard physical, and take home with you the electrodes. Check.
        (4) A videocamera, an optical fine-focus camera, and a lenseless PenCam camera wi

  • About time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paleo2002 (1079697) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:35PM (#38675578)
    This sounds great and all, but it seems a shame that they've got to bribe people into developing such a device. A portable, multi-purpose medical diagnostic tool isn't sufficiently desirable on its own? You'd think something like this would have been in development for years already.
    • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PPH (736903) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:41PM (#38675636)
      Dammit Jim! I'm a doctor, not a venture capitalist!
    • by greap (1925302)
      > This sounds great and all, but it seems a shame that they've got to bribe people into developing such a device. A portable, multi-purpose medical diagnostic tool isn't sufficiently desirable on its own? You'd think something like this would have been in development for years already.

      It has been. The x prizes are about encouraging startups and outsiders to the fields in question to become involved and so both bring fresh eyes to the problem and provide an influx of tallent in to a specific sub-sector
    • by joshamania (32599)

      Allow me to introduce you to a little concept we in the real world call "economic incentive".

      • Building the 21st century's answer to the stethoscope - multipurpose, portable, everyone uses it - isn't enough incentive? Actually, it probably isn't these days. Nobody is interested in taking real risks.
    • More like 'chance' funding.

  • Cellphones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) * on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:40PM (#38675632) Homepage Journal
    Why dedicated tricorders if you have cellphones? Carrying an "intelligent" device with a lot of "awareness" already (accelerometers, magnetometers, gps, etc), adding them a few more that take existing input (i.e. measuring elements in breath when you are answering a call, or from your hand when you are holding it) should not be that hard. The key here is more to make compact enough sensors to that kind of use. Of course, you can have also devices on your body taking measurements and communicating with the phone by bluetooth too.
    • by praxis (19962)

      They are aiming for under 5 lbs, that's an awful lot of weight to add to a 5 oz phone. A sixteen-fold increase might be a bit much to say one is adding medical instrumentation to a phone--it might be more accurate to say one is adding a phone to a medical instrument.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      One step at a time. Virtual laser keyboards and laser projectors are cool but what we really want is to have them in our cellphones or other portable devices so that we don't have to whip out a peripheral. But being able to buy a separate one satisfies the early adopters now and paves the way for the tech to become more ubiquitous and cheaper and hopefully eventually smaller as well.

  • *medical* (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:44PM (#38675672)

    *medical* tricoder they mean.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Technically this is a medical tricorder.

    The tricorder that Spock uses to analyze planetary atmosphere and find several beings moving beyond that ridge is what I want.

    But actually that's already been made: http://www.stim.com/Stim-x/0996September/Sparky/tricorder.html

  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:56PM (#38675858) Homepage Journal

    But, it diagnoses everyone who's ever even HEARD of a "tricorder" with A.D.D.

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @01:01PM (#38675922) Homepage

    Wikipedia's article on Noninvasive glucose monitor [wikipedia.org]:

    Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in companies who have sought the solution to this long-standing problem, and the search has been peppered with false starts, premature announcements of success and outright chicanery on the part of some investigators. However, most of the researchers in this field have been genuinely interested in helping those with diabetes find a less painful and more convenient way to measure their blood glucose.

    Approaches that have been tried include near infrared spectroscopy (measuring glucose through the skin using light of slightly longer wavelengths than the visible region), transdermal measurement (attempting to pull glucose through the skin using either chemicals, electricity or ultrasound), measuring the amount that polarized light is rotated by glucose in the front chamber of the eye (containing the "aqueous humor"), and many others.

    And that's just one parameter. A useful tricorder would cost billions of dollars to make, not just $10 million.

    • A useful tricorder would cost billions of dollars to make, not just $10 million.

      Agreed. Think of the number of tests it would need to do non-invasively; I believe one of the functions of the tricorder on the show seemed pretty much the same as an MRI scan. MRI scans only work becuase you surround the patient with a powerful magnetic field, and that's NOT coming with a hand-held device.

      One point for the advent of the tricorder is in some ways I would argue the tricorder is actually out of date. If I also recall from the show, Star Fleet had an array of these devices for specialized fun

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can do an MRI with the Earth's magnetic field, it's just the SNR goes to pot and you get crappier scans. There are people working on low magnetic field image capture machines using NMR technology. Look at this: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/07/08/39842.aspx
        You can also have small coil MRI units: http://medgadget.com/2005/05/mayo_clinic_bc1.html

        • by inflamed (1156277)
          The best solution would be a portable low-power high-field NMR (OK, I might as well ask for a flying unicorn). You can detect characteristic resonances for a gazillion compounds and through TOCSY isolate them from other signals. IMO 50% of diagnostic medicine or more could be done with NMR.
      • by KlaymenDK (713149)

        This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been closed.

        They go on to say "Sorry about that" but I'm not convinced they are. Anyway, you might want to update you sig.

    • True, but the PR windfall is much more valuable than the prize money. The publicity stirred up by claiming the prize would mean lots of exposure (and thus - more importantly in an emerging market - mindshare) through news programs, magazine articles, Google search results, etc. Also, I'd wager that if you can point to your X Prize during a sales pitch to hospitals, the US Military, or FEMA your claims suddenly get a lot more credibility so you're more likely to recoup those R&D costs through big contrac

    • by apcullen (2504324)
      This is an excellent point, but to counter it I would say that all of the space ships that were designed for the first x-prize competition must surely have cost much more than the $10 Million prize.
  • http://www.stim.com/Stim-x/0996September/Sparky/tricorder.html [stim.com] I think that was the one we had. Really dorky one of a kind science class where we measured emf, geopositioned things (before public access to GPS), etc. Thing did temperature, emf, voltmeter stuff if you had the attachments I think, had a colour spectrum analyzer (so you could hold it up to something and it would tell you the rgb values).

  • I want to see the sensor pack on a thumb-drive-sized micro-USB device that can plug into any smartphone... um, sorry, *many* smartphones... Then tell CBS to stop screwing with Kenneth Lakin and turn him loose on it.

    Ooooh oooh oooh, make the sensor pack a Bluetooth device that looks vaguely like a chrome cigarette lighter!

  • So... won't CBS sue the hell out of the winner?

  • there may be one company already making a fuzz about their pocket sized medical sensor.

    Ah yes, found the article: http://singularityhub.com/2011/12/24/scanadu-raises-2m-for-medical-tricorder-video/ [singularityhub.com]

  • I don't see it spelled out anywhere.

  • Netbook: 2lb. Check.

    It has a camera. It has a microphone. It has two other input devices (keyboard, touchpad), sometimes three (fingerprint reader). For external sensors, you have one or two USB ports. Pop in a rat tail for a finger pulse oximeter. Kick up the internet connection for the NHS Home Diagnostics page (right here [nhsdirect.nhs.uk]).

    I think that surpasses the requirements somewhat.

    Epic win.
    Where's my prize?

  • They'd better watch out... Paramount is VERY jealous of that "Tricorder" word... The Android application that actually enabled some of those functions got smashed...

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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