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Health in Your Hands

January 13, 2012

Rheanna Sand

(Photo: roddenberry.com catalog)

For many scientists and science geeks, including me, the discoveries that bring science fiction to life are the most exhilarating. The ones that come close - like the water-powered jet pack or the tiny flying saucers - give a small thrill, but ultimately we hunger for spaceships, transporters, replicators, and aliens.

Enter the X Prize Foundation. This organization seeks to solve the world's biggest challenges by incentivizing technological research and development. In plain English, they are paying people to use their brainpower to make this world a better place. And more futuristic.

The first competition, the Ansari X Prize, gave $10 million to the first non-governmental team to launch a reusable, manned spacecraft twice into orbit within two weeks. The craft that succeeded, SpaceShipOne, will soon be used by Virgin Galactic to give the one-percenters the most thrilling flights ever experienced by civilians. Oh, and to shoot the new Beyonce/Jay-Z video in space, of course.

Google has also sponsored an X Prize of their own, offering up to $30 million to the team which can land a robot on the moon, have it travel at least 500 meters and send back video and other data. With the NASA cutbacks this looks like the only prospect of getting back to our lonely satellite.

But the newest X Prize takes the cake, as far as realizing science fiction is concerned. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize will reward the team who can create a working version of the hand-held Star Trek gadget within three and a half years. The exact details are yet to come, but the overall idea is to create a non-invasive mobile device that can capture key health metrics (blood pressure, temperature, etc.) and accurately diagnose a suite of ailments and diseases. Ultimately they seek to reduce the number of people accessing doctors and help those in remote areas track their health, among other noble aims.

The big question on MY mind is, what model will it be like? I mean, of course it will be a Starfleet model, Romulan tricorders are much too gaudy. So will it be like the medical TR-580 or the rare but fashionable "red tricorder"? And will it have holographic imaging diodes, or be capable of disrupting forcefields? And make those awesome tricorder sounds? We can only hope.

 

The red tricorder - nice, but it clashes with my phaser.

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