Usually, art imitates life. However, in the case of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, it's the other way around: art is inspiring real life. The competition, which will have one lucky team taking home $10 million, focuses on building a tricorder, just like the one used on TV series "Star Trek."
On "Star Trek," the tricorder is a medical tool that is used for diagnosing diseases and monitoring patients. The X Prize, which began last year, asked competitors to build a similar device. And now, after 21 submissions, judges from the competition have narrowed down the potential winners to just ten.
So what does it take to win the $10 million? The device must be mobile and capable of monitoring health by diagnosing at least 15 medical conditions and monitoring five vital signs. The ten finalists now have a year to finish prototypes of their devices for final submission.
The finalists come from around the world and include medical device manufacturing companies, technology start-ups, university teams and even NASA.
"Our selected finalists represent the most promising and innovative submissions as determined by our expert judging panel," says Grant Campany, Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize's senior director. "We want consumers to take a more proactive approach to managing their health and having convenient access to real-time medical data will do just that."
Don't expect the tricorders to look like their "Star Trek" counterparts, though. Some designs are subtle, such as jewelry, while others are small devices that wirelessly connect to computers and smartphones.
One of the finalists, called DMI, is a team led by a NASA doctor, the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their entry is a universal blood scanner, which has already been tested in space.
Competition officials believe that these tricorders will have a huge impact on the world, particularly in third world countries that don't have good access to health care.
Much of the technology already exists for this kind of mobile health care. We now have sensors that can detect gases. Electrocardiogram (ECG) is commonly used for monitoring heart health. Light sensors can examine blood without blood being drawn.
However, no one has yet put all that technology into one device, which is the point of the competition.
The final round of competition will take place in mid 2015. Then, teams will start testing their prototypes on consumers. After evaluating each device, Qualcomm will choose a winner the following year.