$10M Prize Offered To Turn 'Star Trek' Device Into Reality

Qualcomm, X PRIZE Foundation Want To Make Real-Life 'Star Trek' Tricorder

A local company is offering a $10 million prize to whoever can turn a medical device seen on a hit TV show into reality.

Qualcomm, in partnership with nonprofit group X PRIZE Foundation, wants to turn the "tricorder" from the sci-fi TV show "Star Trek" into a tool everyone can eventually have in their home.

On the show, the tricorder was used to scan people and detect medical problems.

"The goal is that this goes in your medicine cabinet," said Don Jones, Qualcomm's vice president of wireless health. "And you pull it out when you're not feeling well."

Qualcomm hopes the real tricorder will allow users to find out what medical issues they are dealing with.

"Historically, you've had a mercury thermometer and a telephone and, more recently, Google to figure out what's wrong," Jones said.

Jones said a real tricorder would be far more advanced, and he told 10News the idea is feasible.

"I think the underlying technologies we can perceive are actually available today," he said. "And this actually can be accomplished."

Dr. Roger Sur, a kidney specialist at UC San Diego Medical Center, agreed and said, "I think it's totally possible."

Sur pointed out the wide variety of technology advances seen in the last 30 years, but he also had questions.

"How will the consumer utilize this information?" he asked. "Will this replace a doctor or is this something we use with a doctor?"

Jones said he envisions it being used in conjunction with doctors and also in remote areas where there are no doctors.

In general, Sur likes the idea of a real working tricorder.

"I think any advance in technology is a boon to medicine," he said.

Sur also said the technology is not that far removed from a portable, hand-held ultrasound machine that he uses in his practice.

Qualcomm hopes the tricorder will cost about the same as a cell phone and be available in five to seven years.

A wide variety of experts will next come up with criteria for the device, including the number of conditions it will be able to diagnose.

Soon after, inventors will go at it, and the first to meet all the criteria will win the $10 million prize.

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