Star Trek has inspired a great deal of modern technology. The X Prize Foundation wants one of the most desired of them all: a functioning Tricorder that can diagnose physical ailments and injuries. Think you can make one? You could win $10 million.
We have smartphones already more powerful than Trek‘s flip-open communicators (or even better, those super cool tap-to-activate insignia pins from Next Generation). We have iPads that work much like the PADD touch tablet used by the Enterprise crew. Scientists have recently subatomic teleportation, an important stepping stone towards getting beamed up. With the advent of 3D televisions and technology like Kinect, video games are inching ever-closer to the day when we’ll play in full-blown holodecks.
But the Tricorder remains illusive, because it’s multiple devices in one. It’s a scanner that can find everything from brain tumors to the common cold. It’s an imaging device for visualizing internal physical conditions. It possesses a modicum of artificial intelligence, as it can independently determine health or sickness patterns in an individual. And it’s capable of storing massive amounts of data, in order to make all of these things possible. Perhaps most interesting of all: the winning Tricorder will be a consumer device, not a super-technical gizmo intended only for medical professionals.
It’s a tall order, but X Prize is offering equally big winnings: $10 million.
In order to be eligible, entrants’ devices — which X Prize expect to vary wildly in appearance — must diagnose a set of 15 conditions and capture various metrics for health. Entries must be a single, self-contained device which does not exceed a weight of 5 pounds. X Prize also strongly encourages entrants to strive for devices that have no external wires, in order to keep it consumer-friendly.
Those wishing to enter the contest have (get this!) three-and-a-half years to fashion their Tricorder. So there’s no rush. But one way or another, it sounds like by 2015, the Tricorder could very well be a real device that you can own and use.