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X Prize to offer $10 million for 'Star Trek' diagnostic device

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 16, 2011
A foundation that dangled million-dollar incentives to private inventors to find cheaper ways to send humans into space is now moving to a, er, final frontier.

The X Prize Foundation said last week it would offer a $10 million award to whoever creates a mobile diagnostic medical device that could "diagnose patients equal to a panel of board certified physicians." The device would likely use a combination of wireless sensors, imaging or microfluidics, the foundation said.

The competition, called the Tricorder X Prize and set to launch next year, is named after the "tricorder," a hand-carried tool used in old "Star Trek" episodes as an all-purpose diagnostic device.

The competition is a collaboration with Qualcomm, a San Diego-based telecommunications company. More details about the prize are expected before the end of the year.

The 26-year-old X Prize Foundation tries to encourage innovation through competition. It's best known for the $10 million Ansari Space Prize, won in 2004 by Scaled Composites for being the first private team to send a three-man, reusable spacecraft at least 100 km above the Earth's surface twice within two weeks.

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