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The X-Prize Foundation Will Give You $7 Million If You Invent a ‘Star Trek’ Tricorder

You probably heard of the X Prize Foundation back in 2004 when they offered (and awarded) $10,000,000 to the creators of the first privately developed reusable space vehicle. In the years since, they’ve offered similar prizes for fuel-efficient cars, technology to clean up oil spills, and even a private lunar rover to explore the moon. Their latest prize, however — as spotlighted this week at the Mary Sue — is taking its cue from science fiction.

They want you to build a Tricorder.The stated goal of this prize — which is called, no joke, The Quaalcomm Tricorder X Prize and has been endorsed by the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry — is to catch us up with the 23rd century by creating a wireless, mobile device that can “diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.” To that end, the real-life tricorder will have to be able to non-invasively gather basic health data like blood pressure or, presumably, the presence of any unwanted cybernetics that were implanted when you were absorbed into the Borg collective.

It’s a pretty tall order, especially considering that catch: The whole thing has to weigh less than five pounds. But really, when you think about it, we’re already halfway there. A great deal of the technology that seemed so futuristic when it was on TV back in 1987 has become commonplace. The schematic above touts the Tricorder’s touch-screen buttons and response to voice commands, which essentially just makes it an iPhone that went to med school.

Heck, there are even people right now — like CA’s own Andy Khouri — who insist on referring to their smartphones as Tricorders in their email signatures. Anything that gets that to stop has to be a good thing.

If nothing else, the $7,000,000 prize is bound to do exactly what the X Prize was set up for: encouraging development of beneficial technology that can help make the world better for everyone. But at the same time, I have my worries. Call me a pessimist if you will, but who knows what this could lead to? One day someone invents a medical tricorder, and then the next we’ve got a sentient hologram of Professor Moriarty to worry about.

I’m going to start learning how to reverse the polarity, just in case.

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