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Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize goes to US team for device fusing AI, IoT, health

A team based in Paoli, PA won first place in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize challenge and may have moved us a bit closer toward a Star Trek tricorder for health applications.
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Written by Larry Dignan, Contributing Editor on

We're getting closer to that Star Trek medical tricorder concept.

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First prize in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize was awarded to Final Frontier Medical Devices, a team in Pennsylvania. The team, led by brothers Dr. Basil Harris, an emergency medicine physician, and George Harris, a network engineer, created an artificial intelligence engine called DxtER that learns to diagnose medical conditions via data from emergency medicine and analyzing patients.

Final Frontier Medical Devices was awarded $2.6 million at the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize ceremony on Wednesday.

Also: The business of XPrize: Scaling innovation contests

DxtER operates at the intersection of a few key trends such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. The concept of a medical tricorder is also becoming more possible as use cases for IoT -- health, transportation, smart home, smart city, and other areas -- blend together.

More on health, IoT and AI: IBM's Watson does healthcare: Data as the foundation for cognitive systems for population health | Google's DeepMind and the NHS: A glimpse of what AI means for the future of healthcare | AI that knows you're sick before you do: IBM's five-year plan to remake healthcare | Rebuilding the brain: Using AI, electrodes, and machine learning to bridge gaps in the human nervous system

Harris said that a device such as DxtER could address 90 percent of the cases in the emergency room without leaving the home. After all, people are really going for a diagnosis.

Here's the quick overview of DxtER, which was basically cooked up in Harris' den and house with his team in Paoli, PA:

  • The system includes a series of non-invasive sensors to collect vital signs, body chemistry, and biological functions.
  • From there, data is used by the device's diagnostic engine to make an assessment.
  • The device is designed to monitor health and diagnose illnesses in a home setting.
  • DxtER is autonomous, but can share information with healthcare providers if given permission.

Second prize in the challenge, good for $1 million, was given to Dynamical Biomarkers Group, a Taiwan-based outfit led by medical school associate professor Chung-Kang Peng, Ph.D.

Dynamical Biomarkers Group paired algorithms and analytics in a device controlled by a smartphone. HTC Research helped with the prototype.

There were more than 300 teams vying for the Qualcomm-funded XPrize. The challenge revolved around creating a simple user experience that could diagnose 13 disease stats with their prototypes.

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