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San Diego Union-Tribune: Deadline extended for Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

Basil Harris

Deadline extended for Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

Seven teams vying for $10 million prize; Winner to be named in 2017

By Mike Freeman | 4:45 p.m. Dec. 17, 2015 | Updated, 5:42 p.m.

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The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition has been extended for about a year, contest organizers said Thursday.   XPrize Foundation

The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition has been extended for about a year, contest organizers said Thursday. XPrize Foundation

Transforming the fictional Star Trek tricorder into a real-life medical scanner has turned out to be harder than expected. 

The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize competition has been extended for about a year, contest organizers said Thursday. The move will give the seven finalists more time to perfect their designs.

Originally, a winner was schedule to be named in early 2016.

“Because of the advanced level of technology required to achieve success in this competition, and to ensure the finalists have enough time to refine their tricorders, we decided to add a second phase of consumer testing and extend the competition,” the XPrize Foundation said in a statement.

Officially launched in January 2012, the Tricorder XPrize aims to push wireless medical technology into the mainstream. San Diego-based Qualcomm pledged the prize money. The company has long viewed mobile technology as key to cutting health care costs and improving results.

Last year, 10 finalist teams were selected. They had to deliver prototype devices this summer for testing in San Diego, including user reviews.

Those initial tests occurred at the Clinical and Translational Research Institute and the University of California San Diego, where dozens of volunteers and health care providers tried out the devices.

The benchmarks were ambitious: Detect 16 different conditions and continuously monitor five common vital signs.

Even when the finalists were announced, some teams expressed concern about the technical difficulty of testing for so many diverse illnesses on a portable device.

Now, the 16 conditions have been trimmed to 13 — with tuberculous, Hepatitis A and stroke detection eliminated. “We did this to keep pace with current epidemiology, as well as to reduce risk of contagion to the testers,” said contest organizers.

Remaining illnesses include pneumonia, anemia, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and diabetes, among others.

Seven of the 10 original finalists remain in the competition. At least two finalists have joined forces.

Teams will deliver 30 new prototypes, with consumer testing expected to begin in September 2016. Winners will be announced in early 2017. (760) 529-4973 Twitter @TechDiego

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