Friday, February 22, 2013

Star Trek inspires X-Prize

From USA Today: "Available soon - a tricorder"  (H/T Instapundit)
The X Prize Foundation, which pays huge cash prizes to intrepid inventors, is offering prize purses totaling $12.5 million for the creation of a first-generation tricorder that could be used for medical diagnoses. Nokia and Qualcomm are putting up the money for the contests.
In my previous life, I went to a lot of optical engineering conferences.  In one of them, a presenter showed off a portable device (underwritten by the Bill Gates Foundation) that took a drop of blood and then, using various light scattering and transmission techniques, provided all sorts of information.  Primarily it was intended to fight AIDS in Africa by detecting the HIV virus.  At the time I thought to myself that this might be the closest thing to a tricorder I had ever seen.  The very same concept is used in those clips they put on your finger at the hospital: the way certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by your blood will indicate the oxygen content and, indirectly, your pulse rate.

If I were to place my bets on the pathway forward for a tricorder, it would be a light-based system, sensitive enough to pick up on blood characteristics similar to the way you can tell somebody is embarrassed by a flushed face.

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