X Prize Foundation Unveils Tricorder Teams

11-5-2013 11-34-54 PM

In 1996, a small non-profit organization called the X Prize Foundation announced a $10 million purse payable to the first private organization to successfully build and fly a manned spacecraft into space not once, but twice, and within a two week period. The prize stood unclaimed for nearly a decade while dozens of teams designed and built prototypes. The prize was finally awarded to a team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen after their spaceship, the SpaceShipOne, safely returned from its second flight on October 4, 2004. The challenge is credited with generating $100 million in aerospace R&D investments.

Founded by American entrepreneur and Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis, the X Prize Foundation hasn’t slowed down a bit. Since 2004, the non-profit has awarded prizes for the first 100mpg car, for a more efficient oil spill cleanup technology, and for a new lunar lander.

In 2011, the company announced a new challenge: the Tricorder X Prize. Backed by Qualcomm, the new contest challenges health IT firms to “develop a mobile solution that can diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.” For those that were not Star Trek fans, the term Tricorder is borrowed from a hand-held device that could scan a person and return a diagnosis.

The X Prize Tricorder has set the bar nearly as high. The device will be mobile, and “capable of capturing key health metrics and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases.” The entrants will be tested and judged by both clinicians and patients. Up to three teams will be awarded the prize, the winners will be the teams that have the highest diagnostic accuracy across 15 distinct diseases and have positive consumer experience evaluations.

Since the 2011 announcement, a good deal of time and effort has already been spent by teams building prototypes to enter into the contest. From an initial pool of more than 300 entrants, 34 semi-finalists have been named to compete for the $10 million prize.

Most are relatively unknown, but a few have made news leading up to the competition.

  • The Scanadu team is the most notable entrant. The startup closed a record breaking $1.6 million Indiegogo campaign that was used to fund their early prototype development. Scanadu is developing a hand-held biosensor that will capture heart rate, body temperature, pulse oximetry, respiration rate, blood pressure, emotional stress, and an ECG waveform.
  • Health IT startup Intention Technology has been getting local publicity in the Sarasota, Fla. area since mid Summer, but suprisingly little has been leaked on what they are developing for their Tricorder prototype.

Teams will have until April 2014 to submit designs. After this a panel of judges will take the summer to review the submissions and narrow the field down to 10 finalists. The finalists will take the remainder of 2014 to build a working prototype of their designs. The protoypes will be tested and judged during Q1 of 2015, with an announced winner following during the Spring/Summer of 2015.

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