As Oscar Wilde said in 1899, Life imitates art far more often than art imitates life.
When, as a newly qualified physician, I started watching Star Trek, in
the sixties, I was naturally particularly intrigued with the character
of 'Bones' - Dr. Leonard McCoy, (Deforest Kelley) and his magnificent
'Tricorder', which always revealed the diagnosis promptly and resulted
in his life-saving interventions. This was the twenty-third century
and the Tricorder as seen in 'Star Trek: the Original Series', is a
black rectangular device, with a top that pivots open and a small screen
and control buttons. There were varieties for different function,
and of course the one that 'Bones' used was the medical variety, which
had a removable sensor probe, that was made out of a salt cellar.
The word 'Tricorder' is an abbreviation for "Tri-function recorder".
Sensing, computing and recording are the three functions.
Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize was launched in January of 2012. The
$10,000000 prize was to be awarded to the developers of a real life version of the
Tricorder. Two and a half of that ten million was won by a team of
scientists and engineers from Pennsylvania's Final Frontier Medical
Devices with their 'DxtER' machine. A Taiwan group, Dynamical
Biomarkers Group, won one million. The DxtER, by the Final Frontier Medical Devices Group is an artificial
intelligence based machine that learns to diagnose medical conditions by
integrating emergency medical data analysis from actual patients. It
gathers the data from a group of non invasive sensors that collect
data about vital signs, chemistry and biological functions. The
'Tricorder' then synthesizes the data it has collected to make a
diagnosis. One major deviation from the Star Trek Tricorder is that
the Tricorder competition aims to take the Tricorder out of the hands of
health care professionals and put it in the hands of patients. The
objectives of this exercise is to make available to the population the
monitoring of systems that would otherwise be difficult for a myriad of
reasons, such as expense, location, scarcity of physicians and health
care workers and patient time. The transmission of this data will help
physicians and nurses determine the urgency or lack of urgency of the
DxtER by Basil Leaf Technologies.
This is a hand held object that is connected to a tablet which will collate the data collected and hopefully arrive at a diagnosis.
The DxtER, developed by the Harris brothers, one of whom is an emergency room physician and their team started with an iPad in the development of their units. They have applied for a number of patents,including a device that can numerous blood and blood chemistry test without breaking the skin. Apparently DxtER can diagnose considerably more conditions than the test called for. The machine also asks patients questions and analyses the answers. The patient has control and can present the information to their doctor for further interpretation. Other finalist groups are working on their own 'Tricorder' projects and we will look at them later.
Meanwhile,thanks tp Star Trek there is little doubt that we are going to have 'Tricorders' long before the twenty-third century!