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Basil Leaf Tech news updates


The Innovation Show

Basil Harris

The Innovation Show

Aidan McCullen

The Innovation Show -- PLAY IT

Artificial Intelligence Bias, Universal Basic Income, Star Trek Medical Devices and the Democratisation of Health Diagnosis.


Basil Harris


Henrik Fohns

The first couple of minutes are in Danish... then it's mostly an interview with Basil and Phil.


Podcast: Mange mennesker kan ikke lide at gå til lægen og blive undersøgt. Og det kan de måske undgå i fremtiden, hvis de har en tricorder i medicinskabet. Vært: Henrik Føhns.

Popping the BUBBL and on the air in New Zealand

Basil Harris

Popping the Bubbl Podcast:

May 12, 2017 || Pete A. Turner

This episode of Popping the Bubbl has Jon filling in as co-host for Sandra who was busy making the SFNew Tech and Latina Geeks events happen. Jon and I traveled to theXPrize offices in LA to meet and interview Dr. Basil Harris, members of his family and team.

Dr. Basil Harris and his brother George formed Basil Leaf Technologies in 2012. Their goal -- to create a tricorder just like the one used in Star Trek. Four years later the Harris brothers and their team presented DxtER™ which ultimately won First Prize in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition.   . . .  more

Listen to the whole story: Meet DxtER™the Tricorder

Radio New Zealand: Doctor in a box: a diagnosis machine

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 29 April 2017

A medical device inspired by Star Trekand powered by artificial intelligence can test for 13 different medical conditions without a doctor in sight.

Basil Harris is an accident and emergency doctor who designed the DxtER - a diagnosis machine that's won an international competition organised by the X Prize Foundation and worth millions of dollars.   . . .  more

Listen to the whole story: Doctor in a box: a diagnosis machine

Also in the news...

Science News for Students

Star Trek gets closer to becoming home tech

Winners of an invention contest built handheld medical devices inspired by science fiction.

By STEPHEN ORNES  ||  MAY 2, 2017

A half-century ago, the television series Star Trek introduced the world to the idea of a handheld device called a tricorder. It had a range of functions, including medical ones. For example, it easily diagnosed injuries and disease in the Starfleet crew. Now, aspects of this science fiction invention are becoming reality. A device called DxtER has just won a multi-million-dollar competition. One day soon, the winners hope, such a tricorder-like device might become part of regular home health care — much like a medical thermometer is today.


Basil Leaf Tech on NPR's THE PULSE

Basil Harris

The Pulse on NewsWorks (NPR/WHYY): Underdogs win cash to make 'Star Trek' device a reality


The challenge was to build a "Star Trek"–inspired 'tricorder' — a medical device that can diagnose dozens of diseases from the palm of your hand.

In April, Final Frontier Medical Devices was one of two teams left standing in the multimillion-dollar Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Competition.  . . .  more

Listen to the whole story: Underdogs win cash to make 'Star Trek' device a reality

Basil Leaf Technologies takes top prize in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition

Phil Charron

Also in the news...

Science News for Students

Star Trek gets closer to becoming home tech

Winners of an invention contest built handheld medical devices inspired by science fiction.

By STEPHEN ORNES  ||  MAY 2, 2017

A half-century ago, the television series Star Trek introduced the world to the idea of a handheld device called a tricorder. It had a range of functions, including medical ones. For example, it easily diagnosed injuries and disease in the Starfleet crew. Now, aspects of this science fiction invention are becoming reality. A device called DxtER has just won a multi-million-dollar competition. One day soon, the winners hope, such a tricorder-like device might become part of regular home health care — much like a medical thermometer is today.



Paoli-Based Startup, Basil Leaf Technologies takes top prize in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

Paoli, Pa. (April 12, 2017) – Basil Leaf Technologies has been announced as the top winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, a 5-year global competition sponsored by the Qualcomm Foundation for teams to develop a consumer-focused, mobile device capable of diagnosing 13 medical conditions and continuously capturing five vital health metrics—all within a well-designed consumer experience. A total of 312 teams around the world entered the competition at the outset. Basil Leaf Technologies entered the competition under the team name “Final Frontier Medical Devices.”

Basil Leaf Technologies’ prototype is DxtER (pronounced Dexter), a portable device capable of collecting and interpreting large amounts of data to accurately diagnose specific medical conditions, provide users with real-time insight regarding their health, and guide them to appropriate action. Our device gives users access to continuous, reliable health data - the information patients and providers need to more effectively manage chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Drawing on years of experience as an Emergency Department physician, Basil Leaf Technologies founder, Dr. Basil Harris, understands that patients want to be meaningfully engaged in their own health decisions.

“Our company is at the forefront of a new era of consumer medical technology,” said Harris. “An entirely new market is emerging that engages consumers and puts them in the driver’s seat. Our device is smart and simple, giving people the help and answers they need when they need this input the most. There is nothing like it in existence, and we believe this technology will change the face of health care.”

Basil Leaf Technologies believes in the power of technology to improve people’s health. Their Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE team includes physicians, engineers, designers, health policy experts, mobile technology and sensor professionals who are passionate about revolutionizing healthcare.

To learn more about Basil Leaf Technologies, visit

On Monday, April 17th at 5:30PM, Basil Leaf Technologies will be demonstrating their device and holding a panel discussion with members of the team. The event will take place at Think Company’s public event space at 111 South 15th Street, Philadelphia, PA. If you are interested in attending, please register at 

For more information about the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, visit

About Basil Leaf Technologies

Founded in 2013 and inspired by the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition, Basil Leaf Technologies, LLC is solely dedicated to building high-quality, user-friendly, medical diagnostic and monitoring tools capable of being used by any individual at any time. These devices empower consumers with valuable information about their own health, when they need it, so that users can make better-informed decisions, further helping healthcare providers diagnose and treat patients, by giving them access to continuous, reliable health data.

Basil Leaf Technologies was founded by two brothers, Basil Harris, a physician with a PhD in engineering and George Harris, a network engineer with a background in computer science. Together they compiled a team of experts in healthcare and technology to compete in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition.

Basil Harris has been actively practicing emergency medicine for over fifteen years, spending the last twelve at Lankenau Medical Center of Main Line Health. Dr. Harris was named a Top Doctor by Main Line Today in 2016 for the third time.

For more information, go to


Founded in 1995, XPRIZE is the leading organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prizes in five areas: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences. Active prizes include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, and the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. For more information, visit


Exciting Day for Final Frontier Medical Devices!

Basil Harris

Science News for Students: Star Trek technology becomes more science than fiction

Basil Harris


New devices are catching up to the tech found in the long-running sci-fi series

STEPHEN ORNES    ||   DEC 8, 2016

Fifty years ago, the first episode of Star Trek aired. It started as a quirky science-fiction television show that lasted for a mere three seasons. But the out-of-this world series launched a long-running story that went on to capture the imaginations of generations of viewers. It has left its fingerprints not only on pop culture but also on the world of science.

The original Star Trek followed a multicultural space crew in the 23rd century as it traveled to distant corners of the galaxy on its ship, the Enterprise. Each episode began with the captain’s voice telling viewers that the crew’s mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Its officers and crew faced terrific challenges, hostile aliens and strange new planets. Though the series wasn’t a rampant success, it led to 13 movies and five more series over the following decades. A sixth series, Discovery, will begin airing in 2017.            

Space may have been the “final frontier,” but it wasn’t the only one in this fictional world. Explorers on the Enterprise used a variety of futuristic tools, weapons and other technology that seemed wild and impossible. The ship traveled through space faster than light, at “warp speed.” It used something called a tractor beam to capture or tow other ships. In the face of danger, characters fired intense beams of light, or lasers, from weapons called phasers. To heal the sick, the ship doctor, “Bones” McCoy, scanned patients with a handheld device called a tricorder. (“Tri-“ comes from the Greek word for three. So, a tricorder could do three things: scan, record and compute.) Hostile alien ships could make themselves invisible by “cloaking.” And characters frequently used devices that acted very like today’s smartphones and tablet computers.

Star Trek’s vision was dazzling. “It showed you what a technological future could be like,” says David Grier. He’s a physicist at New York University in New York City. “I thought it was great.” Grier was a huge fan of the show. He admired how the doors swooshed open at just the right moment to let people pass. And he marveled at how all the devices worked together and from anywhere on the ship. 

Grier and other scientists didn’t just goggle at these devices, though. They drew inspiration from them. They grew up to run their own scientific labs. And now these die-hard fans are actually building modern versions of some of Star Trek’s most fantastic devices. With their inventions now poised to enter the real world, Grier says today’s scientists are about two hundred years ahead of schedule.

I’m a doctor — and an inventor

Basil Harris is an emergency room doctor in Philadelphia, Pa., who grew up watching Star Trek. The show was notable not just for its gadgets, he says. He also liked how it depicted people working together to solve problems. They didn't always get along. McCoy, for example, was a cranky physician who often quarreled with crew members. But he was part of the team. If one crew member was captured or endangered, the rest collaborated on a rescue.

“They had a nice harmony,” Harris says. “It was an optimistic view of the future. How could you not like it?”

read more at....


In early episodes of Star Trek, characters used a tricorder like the one shown here (top) to diagnose injuries and disease. Now, scientists are building tricorders that doctors could use to help people in the real world. The small white object is a modern-day tricorder built by Basil Harris and his team.

Basil Leaf Technologies

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.

read full article:

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

read full article: Final Frontier Medical Devices

Basil Harris

By Jon Sung - July 06, 2015

Somewhere in Philadelphia, there's a house full of tricorders. Literally. The living room, the dining room, even the kitchen is stuffed with computers, tools, testing equipment and 3D printed casings. The people working inside don't have a big lab or a fancy office space. They're Final Frontier Medical Devices, and they're a finalist team in the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition — all seven of them. Impressed? "My sister likes to say we're small, but mighty," the team’s founder chuckles. "Everyone has full-time jobs elsewhere, so this is a part-time gig for us, cobbling this together in our free hours."

Things get even more impressive when you find out exactly who this team’s founder is: he's Dr. Basil Harris, MD, PhD, FACEP.  Those last five letters means he's an ER doctor, and a damn good one. "It's just like you'd imagine any busy ER," Dr. Harris says of his work at Lankenau Medical Center in West Philly, "overrun, undersized, always busy. There's no downtime. You're lucky if you get to pause to go to the bathroom in a 12-hour stretch." So in his “free” time, this guy heads up a group building a working medical tricorder? "I'm the nut who had that idea," he grins.

Nuttiness of this type may run in the family. Dad is a retired engineer, but Dr. Harris credits much of his life's path to his brother Constantine "Gus" Harris, who was working on a PhD in electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before ditching it for the relaxing world of medical school; Gus is now a urologist and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Harris himself got his PhD in civil engineering before making a similar leap. "I gravitated towards emergency medicine because I didn't want to be completely focused on just one item; I loved the variety and the pace and the chaos of the emergency department. You take care of everything, and you have no clue what's coming through the door next; that's where I've been now for 10 years." Dr. Harris is joined on Final Frontier by another brother, George, and aforementioned sister, Julia, who holds a Masters of Public Health degree (clearly a family of lazy underachievers).


Scientific American: Tricorder XPRIZE Competition Heats Up

Basil Harris

Tricorder XPRIZE Competition Heats Up

The race to make a medical diagnostic device inspired by Star Trek enters the final stage this month, as consumers put competing designs to the test

By Michael Belfiore | June 22, 2015

On the classic TV series Star Trek, Dr. McCoy made his job look easy. Diagnosing a patient was a simple matter of whipping out a device called a tricorder and waving it over the person, accompanied by suitably futuristic sound effects. More often than not, the diagnosis was grim and McCoy would declare to Captain Kirk, with professional deadpan, “He’s dead, Jim.”

The dream of a working tricorder may be on the verge of becoming a reality, as eight teams from around the world gather in San Diego this month to deliver prototypes of their entries for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. The rules for the contest are simple: build a device that will allow consumers to perform their own tests for up to 24 different ailments and deliver a diagnosis on the spot, as well as send the data to a cloud-based software platform for further analysis by physicians.

The execution is anything but simple, however. To succeed, the devices have to cram an array of sensors into a compact package, along with the computational power to analyze the data they produce and return a correct diagnosis.

In addition to sensors, some of the competitors are leaning heavily on the computational element. Team Final Frontier, for example, led by Pennsylvania emergency room physician Basil Harris, has a patient respond to a questionnaire on a tablet as a major input to the system. Harris says his team’s task is to program his knowledge and experience into the system.


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Desktop Engineering: Designing Space-Age Diagnostic Devices

Basil Harris


Posted by:  Michael Belfiore  in  Design May 1, 2015

Emergency room visits in the United States are on the rise — up 34% between 1995 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — even as the number of emergency rooms decrease (down 11% over the same period). It all adds up to overcrowded ERs and lower-quality care for patients as they wait longer to see a doctor and get tests that may or may not be needed.

Against this backdrop, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE seeks to foster the development of devices that would put the power to diagnose medical conditions into the hands of consumers, giving them more flexibility and faster access to the information needed to stay healthy.

The goal of the contest is a demonstration of not only what is going to be practical in the future, but also what can be learned “so that we refine these tools and processes so that it’s scalable,” says Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Senior Director Grant Campany. The XPRIZE Foundation wants to jumpstart the development of a new class of products that give ordinary people unprecedented control over their healthcare.

Inspired by the 23rd century tricorder of the “Star Trek” universe, the prize offers $7 million, $2 million and $1 million to first-, second- and third-place teams, respectively. Winning teams will each have to create an easy-to-use system that weighs under five lbs. and can accurately diagnose a set of 13 core conditions (including an absence of conditions), along with three of 10 additional “elective” conditions. They will also have to measure and autonomously evaluate five vital signs, including heart and respiration rate and temperature.

Neatness Counts

Along with accuracy, developing a user-friendly experience is vital to winning the prize. In fact, evaluations of accuracy and usability will be equally weighted by judges in determining the winners — 45% of the overall consideration for each factor. The remaining 10% considered for determining awards will be given to the teams’ explanations of how they intend to develop their entries into viable products.

In August 2014, a team of 22 independent judges helped pare down around 40 teams that had registered to compete to 10 finalists based on extensive documentation outlining their approaches. Now it’s up to those 10 teams, which hail from across North America and Europe, as well from India and Taiwan, to produce working prototypes — at least 30 per team — for evaluation by patients who have the conditions to be diagnosed. The prototypes are due in the XPRIZE offices this month. Researchers at UC San Diego’s Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) will oversee the testing that will take place at CTRI as well as in the patients’ homes over a six-month period from June until December. Winners will be announced in Los Angeles in January 2016 — the 50th anniversary year of the “Star Trek” TV series debut.

“He’s not dead, Jim.”

The competition looks almost tailor-made for team DNA Medicine Institute (DMI). DMI is headed by Eugene Chan, who also serves as CEO of the Cambridge, MA-based startup. Chan’s experience as a working physician inspired him to found DMI with the goal of developing user-friendly medical devices. “The ability to be able to get diagnostic information as fast as possible started with seeing patients in the middle of the night,” says Chan. In the absence of good, fast information, he says, “bad things happened.”


The DNA Medical Institute (DMI) is working on technology that can diagnose a patient via blood
sample in an all-in-one unit. Image courtesy of team DMI.

Instead of having to rely on an outside lab that may not be open at a critical time, Chan longed for a device that could do the work of the lab, but would fit in his pocket. NASA became DMI’s first client as it pursued its own quest to develop medical technologies for long-duration space missions.

DMI’s approach to winning the prize hinges on blood analysis. After pricking themselves with a lancet, a patient can squeeze a drop of blood into a small receptacle, which then gets loaded into a portable diagnostic device, dubbed the rHEALTH X1. There, the blood mixes with microscopic test strips and other reagents. Illuminated with laser light, the reagents reflect the light differently depending on what’s in the blood. An app running on a tablet docked with the machine runs an analysis and displays the results.

Chan says his team’s small size is an asset. “Small is absolutely better,” he says. “Right now, we’ve got 20 people working on this.” That size, says Chan, fosters highly efficient communication. The team designs its prototype in Dassault Systèmes’ SolidWorks and creates them with a 3D Systems V-Flash 3D printer. For designing printed circuit boards (PCBs), the team uses Altium Designer.

The Final Frontier of Medicine

Not every team has the backing of an established company. Basil Harris, a working emergency room physician, heads team Final Frontier. For Final Frontier, the competition is a family affair. Harris’ brother, George, serves as lead programmer; their sister, Julia, works with friend Phil Charron on user experience design; while electrical engineer and physician brother Gus does signal processing for the project using MathWorks’ MATLAB software. Ed Hepler designs the custom-made integrated circuits for the Bluetooth-enabled devices that comprise their entry. He designs the circuits using the open-source TinyCAD software package. George’s daughter, Amanda, does graphic design for the team, and Andy Singer manages their finances. The team designs the devices themselves in the BlenderCAD open-source design package and creates prototypes using MakerBot Replicator 3D printers.


Final Frontier Medical Devices is headed by Basil Harris, an emergency room physician who uses his real-life knowledge to create algorithms and capabilities for the team’s device. Image courtesy of Russell Karten, MD.

For Basil Harris, the challenge posed by the competition comes down to synthesizing his knowledge of emergency medicine, creating the right algorithms to codify it, and then spitting it back out in response to input from a patient. As far as he’s concerned, data-collection devices like heart monitors are secondary in importance to the algorithms. “They’re actually good in a number of categories,” he says of the algorithms, which run on an iPad app. “They’re not perfect across the board. But that’s even without taking the objective data.”

In other words, the artificial intelligence being developed by team Final Frontier can diagnose some conditions on its own simply by asking the right questions. The team has been able to fine-tune the system by conducting trials in the best possible environment — the ER itself.

With the team (including a handful of other specialists) spread out from Boston to Tennessee, the group places a premium on online collaboration. They also strive to make the best use of the face-to-face time they do have — typically in Basil’s house in Pennsylvania, where MakerBot 3D printers churn out prototypes.

Team Final Frontier’s design includes two electronics-laden patches to be placed on the patient’s chest for heart readings, a thermometer, a spirometer for measuring respiratory flow, and a self-contained disposable urine tester, which is to be dunked in a sample provided by the patient.

Basil says he’s amazed at what can be accomplished by a self-funded team of amateurs working part time. “I would encourage anybody to try to make stuff,” he says. “It’s the golden age of creation.”

Nice Work if You Can Get It

The competition has also captured the interest of students and academic professionals. Biomedical engineering student Tatiana Rypinski heads a team of fellow undergraduates at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore called Aezon. In addition to students, Rypinski has recruited faculty mentors as well as outside corporate partners. For designing its devices, the team uses SolidWorks and 3D prints prototypes on a MakerBot Replicator and a Stratasys Dimension BST 1200es. The team designs PCBs in Novarm DipTrace.


Team Aezon is made up of students and faculty from Johns Hopkins University.
Image courtesy of Will Kirk.

Rypinsk says the key to the success of team Aezon lies in the group’s organization. Specialized teams within the larger group each work on a specific disease or piece of the software and hardware puzzle — the smartphone app at the heart of the system, the wearable vital signs monitoring device, or the lab box that processes biosamples.

Rypinski’s biggest takeaway: “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you have a great idea. You have nothing to lose by reaching out and pitching your project and trying to move it forward.”

The range of approaches taken to win the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE point to a major benefit of incentive prizes for solving technical challenges: they call forth a diversity of ideas that would be difficult to bring together by any other means. That’s a boon to the XPRIZE Foundation, as well as, the foundation hopes, to future consumers. “Everything that we do is geared toward not only solving problems but building markets,” says Campany. Even the seven finalists who don’t win cash prizes should benefit. “You get an independent, objective evaluation of your platform relative to others,” he says. And that feedback could enable teams that don’t win the prize competition to win in the marketplace.

Philly City Paper: A Paoli company's quest to create a real-life tricorder ... and win $10 million

Basil Harris


By Andrew Zaleski 
Published: 03/23/2015

A Paoli-based company is hoping to be crowned champion in a global competition with $10 million at stake.

Final Frontier Medical Devices is one of the 10 finalists in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition. Launched in 2012, the XPRIZE competition asked entrants to devise and develop a real-life tricorder, the portable medical device popularized in the Star Trek television series. These real-world tricorders have to accurately diagnose at least 15 different health conditions and diseases—diabetes, stroke, hepatitis A, and the absence of any health problems, to name a few—while being able to monitor five vital signs: oxygen saturation, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. Teams from Canada, Taiwan, Slovenia, India, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, remain in the competition. Three winners, chosen in January 2016, take home $10 million.

The local team is led by Basil Harris, founder of Basil Leaf Technologies. He's also a practicing ER doctor at Lankenau Medical Center of the nonprofit Main Line Health system, work that spurred his early interest in the XPRIZE competition. "As an ER doc, I face a constant influx of patients, some with minor injuries or illnesses and some with major trauma or on the brink of death," he says. "To be effective, all ER doctors have to keep it simple to get the diagnosis quickly and accurately." What could be better than a tricorder? 

The tricorders being developed in this competition aren't quite as sophisticated as the ones used by the crew of Captain Picard. (Jean-Luc Picard over James Tiberius Kirk any day. Come at me.) Still, the devices, if they work, will be novel ways for doctors and patients to rapidly screen for health conditions—from the comfort of home, even—while making health services cheaper and more accessible around the world.

Most of Final Frontier's team members live and work in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, while a couple are located in other states. "Even so, they've lived here at some point and are still Eagles fans," says Harris. The XPRIZE competition has been a part-time project, as all seven of them work day jobs.

"We are working nights and weekends since this thing started," says team member Julia Harris, whose background is in health policy—she spent a stint as a senior policy analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., and she currently works for the state of Tennessee's Medicaid program. She's also Basil's sister. (Four Harrises in total are on the team: Julia and brothers Basil, George, and Gus.) 

"For me, this is really about giving people more control in the future of their health and maintaining their health over time," she says. "We're also thinking about it as a device that leads to the more appropriate use of healthcare services."

Final Frontier's tricorder is actually a system that contains three parts:

  • The main element is a smartphone app, which asks users questions in a dynamic fashion to arrive at a diagnosis. "Based on your answers around the very first question, the system starts to build future questions," says Julia.
  • To verify diagnoses, an arm band for measuring vital signs and a urinalysis kit are also provided.
  • Lastly, a handheld stethoscope that syncs to the smartphone app via Bluetooth. Chest sounds recorded by the stethoscope are visualized and analyzed in real-time on the app to help identify an infection like pneumonia, one of the health conditions all the teams' tricorders must be able to diagnose.

By the beginning of May, Final Frontier Medical Devices will have to deliver one of its tricorder units to the XPRIZE Foundation, the competition's governing and judging body. By June, Final Frontier will have to deliver 29 more. What follows is six months of trials by everyday people who have volunteered to test out teams' tricorders.

"It's pretty incredible that we actually made it to the top 10," Julia says. "It's really kind of awesome that this is happening."

WHYY / THE PULSE: Stranger than fiction– Star Trek's 'tricorder' could soon be a reality

Basil Harris

It all starts with the very first season of Star Trek, a dream of the 1960s, and one Dr. Leonard McCoy. His go-to gadget: the "tricorder" — a handheld device, about the size of an old tape recorder, used for scanning unfamiliar places, recording technical data, and diagnosing the many ailments encountered by the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

It lived on in the Star Trek universe, evolving over time, but now, here on 21st-century Earth, the tricorder may become a real-life medical instrument. The final frontier is here, maybe — in the form of one Basil Harris, an ER doctor at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pa.

"I was an engineer in a former life, and always interested in technology, grew up with tons of science fiction around," Harris said. "And when I heard about this prize, it was immediately intriguing."

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