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"I'm a Doctor, Not an Engineer"

Nonprofit organization XPRIZE aims to incentivize innovation through competition, and they recently teamed up with Qualcomm to host a contest inspired by one of the most beloved of all sci-fi universes, "Star Trek."

The world was first introduced to the medical tricorder in the original "Star Trek" series, which debuted in 1966. The device was used by Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, chief medical officer of the USS Enterprise, to quickly scan and diagnose medical conditions. XPRIZE is hoping to help bring that kind of futuristic technology to the present.

The competition has chosen two finalists to continue developing their tech. One, Dynamical Biomarkers Group (DBG), is composed of physicians, scientists and engineers out of Taiwan. The other, Final Frontier Medical Devices, is led by siblings Basil and George Harris, an ER doctor and a network engineer, respectively.

According to, the DBG group's device employs an HTC smartphone they've modified and several sensors. Those sensors connect to the smartphone via Bluetooth, and all of the components fit into a box where they can be charged using just one USB cable. The Final Frontier Medical Devices' tricoder prototype comes in a kit that includes multiple 3D-printed devices that are wirelessly paired with an iPad Mini for diagnoses.

Credit: XPRIZE

Beaming up the Future

Under the rules of the competition, each device must be able to detect or monitor three different sets of information: the Core Set, the Elective Set, and the Vital Signs Set.

In this final round, the devices must be able to test for all 13 of the conditions on the Core Set list, which includes anemia, diabetes, and stroke. It must also be able to test for any three items from the Elective Set list, which includes hypertension, food poisoning, strep throat, and HIV. Finally, the device must be able to continuously monitor five essential vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation.

With just a little incentive, like $6 million, we can move the clock of technology forward centuries. "Star Trek" is set in 2265, but we have already surpassed a lot of the technology portrayed in the original series with devices like smartphones and software like Skype. Who knows? By the time even 2200 rolls along, we could be centuries ahead of those who first lived long and prospered.

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