SAN DIEGO - San Diego State University announced Monday it is jumping into the fray of a major competition to create something people have only seen in science fiction: a tricorder, the portable medical scanner fans have seen on "Star Trek."
SDSU's X-Prize team says in a year it will have a prototype tricorder device capable of scanning your body and detecting certain health issues.
"I know that there are a lot of people who would really love to have something practical and simple," said Lambert Ninteman, the captain of SDSU's team, which has more than 60 members. He said it could end up being as simple as a smartphone.
As a childhood cancer survivor, he says a tricorder could help everyone.
"What if you have a smartphone in the middle of nowhere and you're a week from the city? If you've got a tricorder, you're set," he said.
The Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize competition requires the device be self-contained and not weigh more than 5 pounds.
Sensors must be able to chart your vital signs from blood pressure to respiratory rate. There are devices that can do some of that now, but here's the "Star Trek" part: imagine something the size of a smartphone not only capturing your vitals, but using the information to diagnose certain conditions. Your heart rhythm could tell it you're having a heart attack, or imagine it telling you that strange bump or mole is skin cancer.
"I think this will allow people to manage their own health much more easily," said Dr. Roberta Gottlieb, the physician lead of SDSU's team and director of the Shiley Bioscience Center.
Teams from all over the world are competing. At last count, more than 250 have pre-registered. More than 10 are from San Diego County alone.
While it is stiff competition, SDSU's team says, bring it on.
"We've got our secret sauce," said Ninteman. "We know what we're doing and we have a pretty good idea of what some of the other teams are doing. That's one of the reasons that we're so confident."
Next spring, 10 teams will advance to the finals. The winner, which will be announced in the spring 2015, will win $10 million.