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These 10 Teams Are Racing To Build Real-Life Star Trek Tricorders

Wouldn’t it be great if we could diagnose almost any disease with a simple handheld device? This bit of science fiction could be a reality soon.

These 10 Teams Are Racing To Build Real-Life Star Trek Tricorders
[Top Photo: Paramount Pictures]

The medical tricorder, a fictional handheld device in the Star Trek universe that can collect patient data and diagnose diseases, is on the verge of becoming real. In August, the XPRIZE announced the finalists in its $10 million tricorder competition, which challenges teams to develop devices that can diagnose 15 different medical conditions and monitor five health metrics.

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Scanadu, a Silicon Valley startup that offered its $199 Scout tricorder to Indiegogo backers last year, is one of the contenders. Designed by Yves Behar, the Scout can reportedly track blood pressure (via pulse transit time), temperature, ECG, oximetry, heart rate, and breathing rate by touching it to the forehead. All the info is delivered to the user’s smartphone using Bluetooth.

Paramount Pictures

“It’s going to be a consumer product in the future, but right now we are positioning it as a research tool so that it can be used to finalize the design and collect data to eventually gain regulatory approval,” explained Walter De Brouwer, the co-founder of Scanadu, in an interview with Co.Exist last year.

The Scout is not yet available to consumers outside of the people who ponied up for the Indiegogo campaign; for that, it will need FDA approval.

Other devices come from less well-publicized teams. Team Final Frontier Medical Devices (they really went with the Star Wars thing) is developing a device called DxtER that can diagnose 16 medical conditions based on algorithms derived from real-life experiences in emergency medicine. Created by Basil Leaf Technologies, a company founded by an ER physician in Chicago, the device is tailored towards Emergency Departments in hospitals, where non-emergency patients often overwhelm staff and a gadget that could quickly offer diagnoses would be invaluable. One of DxtER’s novel abilities is a visual test that can detect whether a patient has suffered a stroke.

Scanadu’s Scout, in contrast, has largely targeted consumers seeking answers about their own health, though it could be used by doctors as well.

Other finalists include Team Danvantri, an Indian group working on a device that measures blood pressure, temperature, ECG, glucose, and more; Team DMI, which has developed a diagnostic device that has been tested in zero gravity; and Team MESI Simplifying Diagnostics, a team from Slovenia that has created a wristband to monitor activities and vital signs.

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The full list of teams is available here.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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