The Tricorder Is Here: Self-Funded ER Doc Wins X Prize

By April 13, 2017

A group of brothers whose only previous invention was a cotton candy machine developed in high school has taken a big step into the future … the 23rd century kind of future.

Dr. Basil Harris, an emergency room doctor from Philadelphia, and his Final Frontier Medical Devices team, is the winner of the tricorder X Prize competition. It comes not only with a $2.6 million prize, but also a chance to mass produce medical scanning equipment that until recently was only something from the mind of Gene Roddenberry.

The goal of the prize, which has now been available for nearly five years, was to produce a “lightweight, affordable health kit that diagnoses and interprets 13 health conditions and continuously monitors five health vitals,” according to The Washington Post. The tricorder developed by Final Frontier uses a small device that connects with an iPad that can quickly collect major medical vitals like blood pressure and heart rate. It even can reportedly tell if a person has pneumonia or diabetes.

More than 300 groups participated in the contest, many receiving financial backing from corporate, government and even crowdfunding sources. Final Frontier, however, backed their own project, ultimately leading them to the coveted X Prize.

They developed a device known as the DxtER, according to an official release, which “learns to diagnose medical conditions by integrating learnings from clinical emergency medicine with data analysis from actual patients.”

Not among the finalists, however, was one company that many early might actually run away with the whole prize. Scanadu raised more than $1.6 million for its handheld device a few years ago, many people paying upward of $200 for a chance to actually hold a real one in their hands.

Scanadu’s Scout was actually shipped out to hundreds of people who donated money. However, the company faced controversy last year when the federal Food and Drug Administration ordered Scanadu to stop supporting those devices next month. Scanadu told media outlets and donors that the device was experimental, and that FDA has restrictions on how experimental devices can enter the market.

Along with the prize money, Qualcomm Foundation — which financed the prize — has committed another $4 million toward development and consumer testing not just for Final Frontier, but for the top six teams considered.

Final Frontier has applied for several patents based on the device, including one aspect of the DxtER that could provide glucose and white blood cell counts without the need for drawing blood.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.