And the winner is… quite possibly, humankind. XPRIZE and the Qualcomm Foundation, during a ceremony held last night in Hollywood, announced that the Final Frontier Medical Devices team won the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Competition. Final Frontier, which hails from Philadelphia and was led by emergency room medic Dr. Basil Harris and his brother, Geroge Harris, a network engineer, accepted the $2.6 million top prize.
The not-for-profit organization XPRIZE Foundation and communications giant Qualcomm launched the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Competition in 2012, challenging anyone or any team to develop a practical, lightweight, mobile, real-world version of Star Trek’s fictional Tricorder that everyday people could use at home, without the presence of a doctor or health care provider, to evaluate health issues.
The evening began with Robert Picardo reprising the Doctor’s famous phrase from Star Trek: Voyager: “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” which proved quite fitting for the event. Picardo then introduced Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPRIZE, who called the ceremony “the culmination of five years of work” that began at CES 2012, when the competition was announced. Diamandis related that April 12 is a momentous date, the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight. The first space shuttle launch took place on April 12 in 1981. “And,” he noted, “today we add another with Tricorder XPRIZE.”
Diamandis then introduced Qualcomm’s executive chairman and chairman of the board, Dr. Paul E. Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs revealed that he headed a Star Trek fan club as a kid, and Diamandis commented that as a child his world was largely shaped by the Apollo program and Star Trek. He also relayed that part of the competition’s genesis was an on-stage interview Kara Swisher (then of Wall Street Journal) conducted with former Apple iPod creator Jon Rubinstein, where Swisher asked what future-leaning technology was next to be created and Rubinstein answered by citing the Tricorder.
The pair then brought out Rod Roddenberry, Gene’s son and head of the Roddenberry Foundation, who addressed the significance of the Tricorder and his father’s vision. Roddenberry explained how important real science was to his father, who insisted that Star Trek needed to feel real. Roddenberry also referenced the cycle of how the art of Star Trek has fed real-world science and tech, and how that has in turn nurtured the imaginations of a new generation of creators.
Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE, then took the stage to share his organization’s philosophy. “The prize is the mechanism, but impact is the goal,” he said. Through global competition “[We want] to incentivize the needle in the haystack to come to you.” The goal is to spur a critical mass of diverse teams and rapid experimentation to drive development forward rapidly. And, he added, the specific goal of the XPRIZE competitions is to foster 10x improvement over existing tech.
Audience members were informed that the Tricorder XPRIZE Competition kicked off with more than 300 teams participating, a figure that over time was winnowed down to 30, then 10, then 6, and involved extensive collaboration with U.C. San Diego to validate the devices and clinical data. Twenty-one judges evaluated the devices and thousands of pages of results and documentation to determine finalists and winners.
And then it was time announce the winners and their prizes:
The Bold Epic Innovator honor was awarded to the Cloud Dx team led by Dr. Sonny Kohli from Canada. They received a trophy and $100,000 prize.
The two finalists were Dynamical Biomarkers Group from Taiwan and Final Frontier Medical Devices from Philadelphia, PA. Many clinical solutions offer a 40% accuracy rate, but XPRIZE set a goal of a 70% accuracy rate of testing and user experience. Both groups combined to average 72% accuracy with their devices and 82% positive user experience with the devices.
DBG was named runner-up and accepted a check for $1 million. Final Frontier/Basil Leaf Technologies won the top prize of $2.6 million. A jubilant Dr. Basil Harris, at the end of his acceptance speech on behalf of Final Frontier, said, “The revolution in healthcare starts here."
StarTrek.com spoke to Dr. Harris in New York City the day before the Hollywood event, when he, executives from Qualcomm and XPRIZE, Robert Picardo and Dr. Chung-Kang Peng of Dynamical Biomarkers Group teamed up to ring the NASDAQ opening bell. He proudly showed off Final Frontier’s entry, which is called DxtER. That’s a mashup of Dx, which is medical lingo for diagnosis, T for Tricorder and ER for Dr. Harris’ line of work. DxtER is an artificial intelligence-based engine that learns to diagnose medical conditions by integrating learnings from clinical emergency medicine with data analysis from actual patients. DxtER includes a group of non-invasive sensors that are designed to collect data about vital signs, body chemistry and biological functions. This information is then synthesized in the device’s diagnostic engine to make a quick and accurate assessment.
Addressing the practical applications of DxtER, Dr. Harris explained, “It's really empowering for people to have a device like this in your home, that's giving you information that's real, reliable, that's giving you answers to questions you have, maybe in the middle of the night, when you don't have access to your primary care. Or maybe you don't even have a primary doctor, and this gives you the information to make a decision, when you need it the most. This has been an incredible, incredible journey and I'm so proud of what we've created, what my team has done. And if we move that ball forward just a little bit, this technology is coming.”
Other details of note from the awards presentation:
Lowes announced that they would commit to retail shelf space and distribution for final product once ready for market.
Award-winning documentarian Morgan Spurlock was on hand with a camera crew. He went on stage to reveal that he’s shooting a documentary about the competition and resulting devices.
XPRIZE also announced the continued support and involvement of the FDA and clinical testing assistance with UCSD, through 2020. Qualcomm announced an additional $2.5 million grant to UCSD to help support continued clinical trials to improve the Tricorder technology and noted that funds not disbursed to winning teams would be utilized for further development and initiating testing of the technology in real-world situations at a hospital in Mozambique. A final announcement came with the word that the Roddenberry Foundation would provide an additional grant of $1.6 million to fund the testing in Mozambique.