Can you build a tricorder? Then you could win $7 million!

Attention Star Trek fans who happen to be scientists and scientists who happen to be Star Trek fans and, hey, even just plain scientists: You can win millions of dollars. All you have to do is invent a tricorder.

Star Trek fans know what a tricorder is: a device that allowed members of Starfleet to scan patients (and even silicon-based lifeforms) for illnesses. Currently we use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines, coffin-like devices that can trigger claustrophobia. Tricorders would be a quick and non-traumatic method to learn what's going on inside us.

According to the X-Prize Foundation:

The winners will be the three solutions achieving the highest diagnostic score regarding a set of 15 distinct diseases in a group of 15-30 people in three days (full details will soon be available in the Competition Guidelines). This diagnosis must be performed in the hands of a consumer, independently of a healthcare worker or facility.

This competition is brought to you by the world's most innovative prize-makers, the X-Prize Foundation, and they mean business. The X-Prize, along with Qualcomm, has $10 million to hand out to the winning teams: first place receives $7 million, second place gets $2 million and third place earns a cool $1 million.

Current X-Prize competitions include building a lunar rover and sequencing 100 human genomes. The first X-Prize, known as the Ansari X-Prize, for the first team to build a reusable launch vehicle to go to space twice within 14 days, was won by Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne in 2004.

Now Scaled Composites is currently in a partnership with Virgin Galactic to bring tourists to space.

Although the Qualcomm X-Prize hasn't released the exact guidelines for the device's capabilities, we know that the tricorder can't weigh more than five pounds. Also, competitors have three and a half years to build it.

You know what that means, right? It means that we'll have a working tricorder before we'll get to see Avatar 2.

(via WaPo and Forbes)

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