back to article X-Prize offers $10m for working Trek tricorder

Fancy getting your hands on $10 million? Of course you do. Then just grab a tool kit and build a working Star Trek-style medical tricorder. Simples. The X Prize Foundation, famed for innovative big-prize challenges in technical advancement, has outlined its next contest: make an all-purpose mobile device that can do a doctor's …


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  1. Storm Cloud
    WTF? about no!

    putting pee inside my mobile...that's just taking the piss!

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Pissing into your mobile.

      As I understand it, there's quite a few iPhone owners who are ready to piss on their phones whether they can do medical diagnoses or not.

      Pint of ale, because it's nearly beer o'clock here on the US East Coast, and also because beer eventually re-emerges as piss.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        mmmm.... beer...

        You don't buy beer, you only rent it.

  2. Caff


    Could be tough to do something like that due to possible licensing difficulites. There have being a lot of recent developements around portable diagnoises aids but bringing them all together I think would be less of a engineering challenge and more of a licensing one.

  3. BorkedAgain
    Thumb Up

    Photo caption

    Win! :)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      And boldly plagiarized where no plagiarism has gone before

      E.g., taken from a well-known Eddie Izzard monologue on Star Trek.

    2. Jason D


      This entire planet is made of wibbly-wee.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Si 1

    Hey guys, look at this new tricorder gadget I just got!

    Now, you just have to piss on it to make it work...

    1. Ammaross Danan

      Problem is

      ...the original tricorder didn't need blood, breath, or pee. Likely used some form of portable MRI to take the readings though, as it was just waved near the bodily injury. Now, Next Generation had a detachable mini-wand that was used as a remote sensor, rather than simply waving the whole device itself. The other trick is that the tricorder acted almost like a read-only (no way to act on the environment) Sonic Screwdriver, being able to detect lifesigns, mineral composition, air quality, etc. There's quite the challenge ahead for those seeking the $10mil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't confuse...

        ..a /medical/ tricorder with a tricorder - in the star trek universe they are different beasts.

  5. David Kelly 2


    $10M is way too cheap for a product of this capability.

    1. defiler

      That's what I thought

      Can't see the medical community being too happy about the implied messages of "we're going to replace every doctor in the world for a piddling 10mill". Dollars, even - not pounds!

      Expect many entries from pharmaceutical companies that end up flashing "we've got a pill for that" on the screen...

    2. Steven Knox

      Missed the Point

      X-Prizes prize values have always been piddling, compared to the money you can make selling the device/service after the fact. They generally aren't even enough to cover development costs. Look at the Ansari X-Prize as a good example. None of the contenders spent less in development than the prize was worth.

      The point of the X-Prizes seems to be to give a small financial incentive along with some good media buzz to help along a goal which should be feasible with modern technology but appears to be foundering due to lack of interest.

      It's more about drumming up press than the actual money. This way, the monetary reward only has to be big enough to impress some low-ranking hack -- no offense intended -- rather than the financial titans who actually have the resources to develop said solution.

      Having said all that, I know someone who's developed most of what's necessary already using off-the-shelf components. The only thing missing is the diagnosis engine, which he hasn't developed due to legal concerns...

  6. Anonymous Coward

    It can be done !

    But sadly the amount of radiation required will kill all within a 100m radius.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Aperture Science

      First thing I thought of when I read that, was "what has Cave Johnson invented now..?"

      1. Robert Heffernan

        Great Science

        They say great science is built on the shoulders of giants - not here. At Aperture we do all our science from scratch; no hand holding.

    2. Jason D

      In case you're interested...

      There's still some positions available for that bonus opportunity I mentioned earlier. Again: all you gotta do is let us disassemble you; we're not banging rocks together here, we know how to put a man back together. So, that's a complete reassembly, new vitals, spit-shine on the old ones, plus we're scooping out tumors. Frankly, you ought to be paying us.

    3. Wize

      I was thinking more along the lines of the Dr Who quote...

      "Also, it can boil an egg at 30 paces, whether you want it to or not, actually, so I've learned to stay away from hens. It's not pretty when they blow."

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Don't worry

    Walk around with a gadget looking like that and everyone will take the piss out of you

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Don't you mean

      You would have to take it out of them?

  8. Jimboom

    Sod that

    If I was to make a working Tricorder then I would be patenting it and making more than a mere $10M.

  9. Syren Baran

    Wrong photo

    Everyone knows Spock uses a scientific tricorder, not a medical tricorder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Medical vs Scientific Tricorder

      Too right!

      When I saw the headline (which didn't specify), I actually presumed Scientific. I thought to myself "it already exists"!

  10. damien c

    $10m not enough

    Sorry but $10m or £6.5m is not enough for someone to develop this piece of hardware as they could make a hell of allot more than that, by patenting it and selling it to Hospital's and Doctor's

    By the time you have paid the tax on that money you will be able to live of it with no problem's but you would have thought it would be more like, $100m or £65m to actually make it worth it fully considering what advances this could bring to the medical proffesion in the future and dealing with illness.

    I don't have the knowledge to actually make this but I would of though it would be a long time before it was even thought about, considering the amount of thing's that would be needed in such a device.

    But good luck to whoever tries and actually does it.

    1. Aldous
      Thumb Up

      the prize isn't the only thing

      i doubt scaled got back the amount they invested into the x-prize for sub orb and as you pointed out it would not work as a business plan.

      these prizes arn't really designed to cover the full costs but to provide a bit of an incentive as well as publicity etc

      as for replacing doctors we have plenty of automating stuff in the IT world yet there are still plenty humans (or as near to) working. it wont replace trained experts but it will be a great assistant in times of crisis/battlefield/remote area's

      1. Adam T
        Thumb Up


        They should take it to Microsoft. They paid $8.5 billion for a phonebook, imagine what they'd pay for a monopoly on diagnostic medicine. Skype could have a Diagnose Me button on it, with Kinect cameras feature built-in Tricoder facilities.

        Fuck me, to the patent office I go!

  11. Graham Marsden

    But can it say...

    ... "He's dead, Jim!"

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Diagnostic Solution for iPhones

    "mate, I hear there is a Tricorder medical app on your new iPhone.

    Just put it on the ground and piss on it..."

  14. RocketBook

    Of Course

    In Europe it would have to be covered by the WEEE directive

  15. Mike Flugennock

    D'ahhh, spit.

    Tricorder, hell. Where's my goddamn' Newspad?

    And, NO, the iPad doesn't count. That thing is frickin' weak. As I recally, the Newspad in Kubrick's '2001' wasn't a wimpy-assed locked-down device.

    But, seriously, folks... how long after these go on the market will we get to hear one paramedic glumly intone to another, "He's dead, Jim."

  16. Mike Flugennock

    the breathing, pissing and/or bleeding into it...

    ...sounds like cheating to me.

    I mean, if they wanted a _real_ medical tricorder, it'd have to be something you could wave up and down over somebody in order to determine their problem. Still, I guess you have to start somewhere.

    Btw, I'm not quite sure this device would really _replace_ a real, actual doctor, but I'm sure it'd come in very handy for paramedics and the like.

    Geek icon, because I still have my copy of the circa 1976 Star Fleet Tech Manual, containing a cutaway diagram of the tricorders showing huge bunches of solid-state components and ICs inside, with the disclaimer "Actual internal arrangement classified; representation of late 20th Century Terran early development."

    No, please, don't pity me.

  17. ian 22

    breathe, bleed or piss

    Erm, there is one form of solid output you forgot. I'm sure you ignored it to avoid the "it's a crap tricorder" comments.

    Mines's the one with the full specimen bottles.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Dropping your mobile phone down the toilet will be a clever thing to do.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Note what the original X prize has *lead* to.


    Sub orbital flight. "Can't be done, no market, already been done, no one interested" blah, blah.


    20+ entries made, many of whom were able to raise funding on the basis that "If we win this, there's a big bag of cash on the table."

    Virgin Galactic wit 5000 people ready to offer $200k full fair on launch day.

    New mexico spaceport

    It's that *immediate* bag of cash right up front (if you can meet the criteria).


    "well our business plan anticipates a 7 year FDA approval delay but after that we expect a steady growth of at least 5% PA." Yawn.

    That's what gets people excited.

    That's what *can* get funding released.

    The X prize was modeled on the Orteg prize that Charles Lindberg won for the New York to Paris run. BTW Lindberg was IIRC one of 7 entrants and the *last* to takeoff. It was neither the best funded nor AFAIK the most technically advanced, but it won.

    Thumbs up. Obviously the devils in the details of the prize rules but I hope that they will prioritize *results* (IE a *reliable* diagnostic tool over a *comprehensive*) without specifying *method* (like it *must* analyse urine but does not have to look at a patients skin or eyes).

  20. Elmer Phud


    "A patient would have to breathe, bleed or pee into the device"

    Baggsy I get to breathe in it before you get to pee.

  21. b166er

    Tit le

    Hey, it's not all about money.

    Some people do genuinely think of others sometimes.

    Especially young people in universities and colleges who aren't as jaded as yourselves.

    I asked to choose, I'd rather be known as a great man than a rich one.

  22. Rich 30


    just turn to the left and cough,

    and again,

    and face forward,

    and bleed....

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