Star Trek Tricorder X Prize competition launches

Star Trek has a number of iconic items: The USS Enterprise itself, the hand phaser and of course Vulcans' pointed ears. Another item known even to non-Trekkers is the tricorder, a portable computing device that scanned items and relayed info about those items to its users in countless episodes of the five Star Trek TV series and 11 feature films.

In June 2011, the X Prize Foundation, best known for offering money to teams to create working rockets, announced plans to launch a new competition designed to create a real, working tricorder-like device. The official Star Trek web site reports that during CES 2012 this week, the X Prize Foundation announced that the first phase of that new competition had begun with $10 million going to the winning team.

The tricorder that the X Prize Foundation is looking for is not the science version worn by Mr. Spock in the above photo but rather one that can be used by its owner to read key health items as well as diagnose if a person has a set of 15 (as yet unnamed) diseases. The device must also weight no more than five pounds.

Can someone actually pull off this kind of device with current technology? Maybe. We just hope that whomever makes such a working tricorder throws in at least a couple of cool Star Trek sound effects.

Image via CBS/Paramount

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16 Comments

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> read key health items as well as diagnose if a person has a set of 15 (as yet unnamed) diseases.

Having 15 diseases at once--now that's beyond bad luck.

Raa said,
Logic dictates that this would not be possible given human's current level of technology.

kind of hard for logic to dictate when one doesn't know the diseases it has to detect yet. it's not a "magic scanner", like star trek.

thornz0 said,

kind of hard for logic to dictate when one doesn't know the diseases it has to detect yet. it's not a "magic scanner", like star trek.

It doesn't NEED to diagnose. That's the doctor's job. It needs to be able to report the conditions in place -- basic things like heart rate, pressure, etc., but then also blood chemistry and other more detailed things that we normally do separate tests for. The medical tricorder in Star Trek never "solved the mystery" of what was wrong with a patient. Bones quite regularly used it to determine initial conditions upon which he would give a first diagnosis....which more often than not ended up requiring the patient to be transported to sick bay and put on the diagnostic bed. We already do have SOME devices that can detect certain internal body functions/conditions without being invasive (in Star Trek this was the little handheld scanning cylinder most of us Trekkers know as the Goldfarb). On a side note, my wife purchased the medical tricorder replica for me for a Christmas present. It's pretty flipping awesome.

Cute James said,
I previously recall reading about a lay-down scanner being tested at a hospital which could diagnose a variety of ailments.

"What is this, the Dark Ages?"