Do you remember Dr. “Bones” McCoy from the original “StarTrek” TV show? When he pointed a hand-held medical device (called a tricorder) toward a patient, it made scientific-sounding noises and gave him diagnostic information of all kinds.
Apparently, that short-lived show (pulled from network television after only three seasons, to all Trekkie fans’ shock and horror) made quite an impact on the folks over at Qualcomm, an American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services. It derives most of its revenue from computer chip production and the bulk of its profit from patent licensing businesses.
In their own words:
“We are engineers, scientists and business strategists. We come from diverse cultures and have unique perspectives. Together, we focus on a single goal – invent mobile technology breakthroughs.”
Qualcomm ran a $10 million XPrize competition last year. The latest challenge was to invent a working tricorder, as seen on Star Trek.
So what’s an XPrize, you ask?
“XPRIZE is the global leader in solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale incentivized prize competitions that create impact in five areas: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences. Our mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”
Believing that results come from incentives – like cold hard cash – this organization has many active prize programs ongoing:
“Our active prizes include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE to land a privately funded rover on the Moon; the $20M NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE to reimagine CO2; the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE to empower children to take control of their own learning; the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to bring healthcare to the palm of your hand; the $7 Million Barbara Bush Adult Literacy XPRIZE to transform the lives of low-literate adults; and the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE to usher in a new era of ocean exploration.”
Isn’t it exciting that some people think change for the better is worth paying for?
In this case, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE was an inducement prize contest. They originally offered a $7 million grand prize to the contestant offering an automatic non-invasive health diagnostics system able to autonomously diagnose 13 medical conditions (12 diseases and the ‘absence of conditions’). The diseases included anemia, atrial fibrillation (AFib), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, leukocytosis, pneumonia, otitis media, sleep apnea, and urinary tract infection.
The winning devices must also be able to record and stream the five main vital signs continuously: blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, and temperature.
Now, after months of elimination and speculation, we have a winner! Meet the inventors of DxtER.
Brothers George, Basil, and Gus Harris with a Star Trek Tricorder (Photo: XPrize)
Final Frontier Medical Devices, a Pennsylvania-based team, led by brothers Dr. Basil Harris, an emergency medicine physician, and George Harris, a network engineer, took home the 1st place.
The name DxtER is a combination of “diagnosis,” “Tricorder” and “E.R.”
DxtER includes a group of non-invasive sensors that are designed to collect data about vital signs, body chemistry, and biological functions. This information is then synthesized in the device’s diagnostic engine to make a quick and accurate assessment.
Gene Roddenberry, executive consultant for and driving force behind the Star Trek television show, would be proud that his vision for a better future has come true.
The character of “Bones” McCoy is famous for saying, “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not an engineer!”
Now, the line between a medical practitioner and advanced technologist is blurring.
Let’s keep on boldly going where no one has dared to go before.
Congratulations, Final Frontier Medical Devices!