Canadian team close to winning millions for creating ‘Star Trek’ tricorder
Published Thursday, May 22, 2014 7:38PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:45PM EDT
If you’re a fan of the classic Star Trek, you may remember the tricorder. It was that futuristic gadget the characters used to read a person’s vital signs and diagnose diseases, simply by waving the device over the body.
If one Canadian has his way, and with the help of $7 million in potential prize money, something similar may soon be a reality.
That man is Dr. Sonny Kohli, the chief medical officer for Biosign, and the team leader for the Qualcomm XPrize Tricorder challenge. He’s also a critical care physician at Oakville-Trafalgar Hospital.
Watch the video above to see our full interview with Kohli.
To win the XPrize, Kohli and his team will need to build a device that is more mobile than their current product, Pulsewave, which is a wrist-worn monitor that still needs to be hooked up to a monitor to show results. The goal of the competition is to create a “doctor in the palm of the hand” that will check for five vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure and breathing rate, as well as diagnose 15 disorders including Type 2 diabetes, urinary tract infection, high cholesterol and HIV.
“Currently we have an FDA-cleared device that we sell that measures blood pressure, heart rate and temperature,” Kohli told Kevin Newman Live. “So, we’ve figured out 80% of the equation.”
But, he added, “we have a prototype that does all five” vital signs.
If the team is successful, Kohli has big plans for the device.
“It can be used by a mother or in disaster relief zones,” he said. And he knows well the impact it could have. He volunteered in Haiti and saw conditions where hospitals didn’t even have ECG machines. That’s when he thought up the idea for a mobile ECG.
“On paper we have it all figured out,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taking that vision and making that functioning prototype.”
The competition has been whittled down to teams from eight countries, and the team from Biosign is the only Canadian entry left. The big reveal for the devices will be in August. If Kohli’s team wins the prize money, it will all go toward commercializing the device.
Beyond the cool factor of a neat science-fiction device Kohli said, “There is a transformation waiting to happen in the world and that’s people will be empowered to take hold of their own health.”
And yes, after a bit of prying, Kohli admitted to being a Trekky.
Here is a video showing how the tricorder was used on the show.