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Build A Working Tricorder, Earn $10 Million

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It happened in most episodes of the original Star Trek series: Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy would encounter a slumped-over crew member [almost always wearing a red shirt]. He’d wave a small device about the size of an iPad [though somewhat thicker] near the crew member, then turn to Captain James T. Kirk. “He’s dead Jim. You get his phaser, I’ll grab his wallet”.

Well, no. But one company says it’ll pay an inventor $10 million for a working tricorder, Dr. McCoy’s medical diagnostic device. The new device must be able to measure standard bodily function like pulse and heart rate, as well as diagnose 15 different diseases. The equipment can take any shape, but may weigh no more than 5 pounds.

The Tricorder X Prize competition was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Previous X Prize contests included a challenge to create a reusable spacecraft. The winning entry, dubbed SpaceShipOne, became the basis of Virgin Galactic‘s planned “space tourist” trips.

There are already devices that can measure body functions and diagnose illness. The problem is that, right now, they’re the size of a small car. Many experts believe that it could be years before a functional tricorder might be built. But the head of the foundation offering the $10 million prize remains optimistic, saying “I’m probably the first guy…in Vegas who would be happy to lose $10 million”.


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