Star Trek tricorder: This may be the best we can do – for now


Star Trek Tricorder XPrize Basil Leaf Technologies DxtER

DxtER, created by Basil Leaf Technologies and its Final Frontier Medical Devices team [Image courtesy of Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize]

They don’t diagnose diseases with a few waves of the hand, the way that Dr. Leonard McCoy would with his tricorder on Star Trek. But 2 mobile platforms – algorithms and sensors paired with smart devices – nearly met the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize’s audacious benchmarks for diagnosing 13 disease states.

In the process, a Philadelphia area team started by siblings and a Taiwan-based team sponsored by HTC Corp. each took home millions of dollars as Tricorder XPrize winners after an April 12 awards ceremony.

The first-place Final Frontier Medical Devices team and second-place Dynamical Biomarkers Group team won out of a group of 7 finalists, pared down out of an original 300 pre-entry teams from 38 countries.

Besides being able to diagnose a host of diseases in a single platform, the devices involved in each mobile platform weighed less than a combined 5 pounds and were easy enough for consumers to use at home, according to the XPrize organizers. They come the closest when it came to the prize’s goal of creating devices to empower consumers in the management of their own health.

Dr. Basil Harris, a Philadelphia-area emergency room doctor with a PhD in engineering, started the company Basil Leaf Technologies and the Final Frontier Medical Device team with his brother George Harris, a network engineer. The team received $2 million.

Dynamical Biomarkers Group, founded by Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng and supported by smart mobile and virtual reality tech company HTC, took home $1 million.

The Final Frontier entry is a consumer product called DxtER (pronounced “Dexter”). DxtER includes a group of non-invasive sensors that can wirelessly communicate with a smart device as they collect data on vital signs, body chemistry and biological functions. An artificially intelligent engine at the heart of DxtER learned to diagnose by integrating ER practices with data analysis from actual patients with a variety of medical conditions and outcomes.

“It’s recreating what I do in the ER. It’s getting to a diagnosis. It’s a system that actually works,” Dr. Harris said in an XPrize video.

Harris’s team was so bootstrapped that they were using 3D printers in the doctor’s home office to create plastic parts, according to The Washington Post. Basil Leaf is presently focused on a completely non-invasive monitor to continuously track blood glucose, white blood cell count, and hemoglobin. The device is in a phase 1 clinical trial.

Dynamical Biomarkers Group Tricorder XPrize DeepQ

Dynamical Biomarkers Group’s DeepQ [Image courtesy of Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize]

The Dynamical Biomarkers Group’s members meanwhile drew inspiration from traditional Chinese medicine’s approach of “observe, listen, inquire and feel” while developing their DeepQ tricorder entry, according to an HTC news release. Their goal was to turn complicated medical examinations into easy home healthcare. They developed a system of three modules – a smart vital-sense monitor, smart blood-urine test kit, and smart scope module – each with “innovative hardware, technologies for physiologic signal analysis, image processing, biomarker detection,” according to the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize.

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