10 Star Trek-Inspired Medical Devices You Need to Know About

August 27, 2014

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10 Star Trek-Inspired Medical Devices You Need to Know About

Remember this line? “Space: the final frontier.” But it is actually medtech that is the final frontier these days for Star Trek-inspired technology, especially thanks to the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize and its recently announced 10 finalists.

The winners of the global competition will share $10 million in prize money. To be eligible for the contest, the device must diagnose 15 medical conditions as well as five vital health metrics. When the prize was first announced, more than 300 teams first expressed interest in competing in the contest.

“The big picture here is that these devices will really benefit patients and healthcare systems - not only developed countries but developing countries,” says Grant Campany, senior director with the X PRIZE Foundation. “Arming health systems and doctors with these types of tools will enable them to have more connectivity with patients. Connecting with patients in their homes or where they work will give them a more proactive approach that can facilitate early detection of disease.”

When asked to name the most important technological trends among the finalists, Erik Viirre, MD, technical and medical director for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE cited the following: promising lab-on-a-chip devices, Big Data analysis, and sleek user interfaces.

"Several promising lab-on-a-chip devices were finalists in the competition. ... The lab on a chip is a big deal to us," said Viire, who added that it is about enabling multiple analytes to be examined in a single drop of blood with a single machine.

"The other major technology that is important is data analysis. For instance, Final Frontier Medical Devices is using a tree algorithm to consider a variety of health-related questions to which it applies advanced statistical techniques to offer possible diagnoses," Viirre says. The potential of such Big Data analysis is huge. Consider how Google Flu is already able to detect flu outbreaks early.

"Another crucial element in the entries is the user interface," Viirre says. "The human factors side is equally weighted in our competition to the accuracy of the technology. When the judging panel looked at these teams and considered them as finalists, equal weight was placed on the technology but also how well the design was presented and how likely the user and experts looked at them and thought they would be successful."

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