Star Trek Tricorder Close to Real Deal

Qualcomm XPRIZE competition to make sci-fi mobile medical device down to two finalists.


I was never a big Star Trek fan, but apparently a multifunction device known as the Tricorder was a pretty big deal. In the series, the device did it all—scouting unfamiliar areas with magical GPS capabilities while diagnosing strange medical conditions at the touch of a button.

In an effort to clone the device for today’s times, electronics giant Qualcomm sponsors the Tricoder XPRIZE, a $10 million global competition, which tasks teams to create a real-world version of the Tricorder cast as a mobile diagnostic medical device, weighing less than five pounds and capable of diagnosing at least 13 health conditions. Underway since 2012, the competition has been whittled from 40 teams down to the final two, which are apparently now discussing possible collaboration when it comes time to bring their products to market, according to a TechCrunch article. The finalists are gearing up to begin consumer testing next year at UC San Diego, and the first prize winner will be awarded $6 million, the article said.

In one corner is the Dynamical Biomarkers Group, with backing from HTC, which has delivered a solution TechCrunch describes as “a cross between a first aid kit and a fishing tackle box.” This tricorder has three different modules, a vital sensor, blood/urine strips, and a smart scope, the article describes. The team plans to roll its product out first in China, where hundreds of millions of people don’t have easy access to healthcare. The other contender is Final Frontier Medical Devices, which calls its entry the Tricorder DxtER (for diagnosis and ER). The TechCrunch article says this entry is a bit less flashy, complete with 3D printed parts and third-party testing solutions.

Both teams are scrambling to create 45 kits for the user testing to start early next year, with the winner slated to be announced in Q2 2018.

Holy Spock. The tricorder may soon get real.

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