Timothy Lord: The X PRIZE Foundation’s next foray into outsourced incentivized competitions is taking place really in 2015. But, in fact, team selection has already started. That is something we’ve mentioned a few times in Slashdot already. It’s the Tricorder competition. The device is supposed to detect at least 15 specific diseases. The idea is to leverage a relatively small amount of prize money, even though it’s large in absolute terms, into a much much larger investment in R&D
Alan Zack: Hi, I am Alan Zack, Senior Director of Marketing for the X PRIZE Foundation.
Timothy Lord: Now the X PRIZE Foundation has been using financial prizes to generate some really interesting R&D, how does that work?
Alan Zack: Well, the X PRIZE Foundation creates incentivized competitions and we use the model where we know that the teams when they compete will actually spend more money collectively to win the competition than the prize itself. For example, our first prize was Ansari X PRIZE announced in 1997 and awarded in 2004. There were 24 teams that competed, that’s made collectively $100 million in R&D dollars to go after the competition. The team that won, SpaceShipOne was the craft and now that has been licensed to Richard Branson for Virgin Galactic and now it’s called SpaceShipTwo. The team won $10 million for that. But if you think about the model of $100 million in R&D dollars to go after a $10 million prize is incredible in terms of incentivizing innovation and really making stock market move forward.
Timothy Lord: And right now, one of your competitions is for the development of so called Tricorder. Can you explain basically what is that device?
Alan Zack: The Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE is funded by Qualcomm Foundation. And it’s a $10 million competition to really incentivize healthcare in the palm of your hands and it will be awarded in April of 2015 and currently we have 260 teams pre-registered for the competition. At CES last year, we actually announced the competition and we spent the last year in creating the guidelines and the structure in order to announce the competition which was actually this last Tuesday, Paul Jacobs had his keynote. So the guidelines are now available on our website, qualcommtricorderxprize.org as well as the registration is open to all teams around the world. And the 260 teams that are pre-registered are from 34 countries. So we truly believe that our competitions are global in scope.
Timothy Lord: So this Tricorder, the whole reason for making it is to in some ways make healthcare more efficient, can you talk about how will it do that?
Alan Zack: Absolutely. So the Tricorder actually to be successful for the team to win, have to successfully diagnose 15 human conditions and they are in our guidelines. I won’t go through them right now. But what’s exciting about that is there is not a device out there right now that can do that. So imagine if you went to find out if you have an ear infection or diabetes, this device will actually be able to detect that and tell you that you actually have that problem.
Timothy Lord: And the teams that you’ve got from all around the world, do they come from all kinds of background?
Alan Zack: Absolutely, that’s the beauty of our competitions. There is no one type of team that is set to win or to enter. We have individuals in garages that develop technology, we have universities and research labs, all the way to established companies that are listed in the stock markets.
Timothy Lord: So there are companies besides Qualcomm that have a bigger interest in this sort of device being successful?
Alan Zack: Well, true, but the sponsors do not own the IP after the competition is awarded, they are putting up the money really to spur the innovation. Now with Qualcomm Foundation specifically and Qualcomm they are in the healthcare space, they want to see innovation as Paul Jacobs as noted in his keynote. They would like to see this space really leap forward in a big way. And we think with the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE that will incentivize the teams to develop the hardware and software to make that actually a reality.
Timothy Lord: Okay. And there’s a lot of work with sensors in general, that we see expanding. There is all kinds of from household to personal fitness, and companies are using sensors to try to measure all kinds of things. Are there specific ones that are the most important developments that are going to make the Tricorder a feasible idea?
Alan Zack: Absolutely, actually in this CES, one thing that was very clear is how sensing software is becoming more and more mainstream in many of the devices, and in our lifestyle, and so everything from medical to fitness sensing is looking to be incorporated to understand, one, how a human interacts with the device and also make a better life for the human by sensing their movements.
Timothy Lord: So, sometime after 2015 we’ll start seeing some prototypes and ideas that are made more physical?
Alan Zack: Absolutely. And with the Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE, which is sort of a sister competition to the Qualcomm Tricorder, we’re hoping that there is a collaboration between the teams, the teams that compete for this Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE most likely will work with the teams that are competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE and incorporate their software into the devices. Actually many teams are competing for both competitions.
Timothy Lord: And if somebody wants to learn more about either entering or just the parameters and they’re curious, how will they best find out about more of the X PRIZE competitions guidelines?
Alan Zack: There’s many ways, you can go to www.xprize.org, all of our competitions are listed on our homepage or you can go to each website’s competition. It’s the www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org, and the www.nokiasensingxchallenge.org websites for those competitions.