SDSU in race to develop Star Trek Tricorder

SAN DIEGO — “How is he?” asks Dr. McCoy, as Spock runs his tricorder up and down a patients torso in a scene from Star Trek.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 9.35.46 PM“He has severe heart damage,” says Spock.

“We have the technology to do this,” said San Diego State University graduate student Lambert Ninteman.

Ninteman is leading a team of 60 other SDSU students working to develop the first real-life tricorder.

The non-invasive device, based on science fiction, would be used to scan a person’s body and detect symptoms, even diagnose a disease.

“We have to be able to take all the data in from your body, scan it, take that data and then accurately perform diagnosis,” said Ninteman.

His team is one of about 250 across the country competing in the X-Prize Tricorder Competition.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 3.00.26 PMSDSU’s device is still in the early stages of development, but their computer-generated designs show a tricorder that can be connected to a smart phone.

Qualcomm is sponsoring the race, offering a $7 million prize to the creator of the most impressive and accurate tricorder, plus  $2 million and $1 million to the second-  and third-place teams.

For Ninteman, who considers himself a Start Trek fanatic, the race to create a tricorder isn’t just a dream come true — it’s also something very personal.

“I’ll bet you a nickel that something was going on with my blood chemistry before the first tumor showed up,” said Ninteman, a childhood cancer survivor.  He hopes to develop a device that  will revolutionize healthcare by detecting early warning signals like changes in blood chemistry so more people can get early treatment.

“People could run check-ups themselves everyday, instead of once a year,” he said.

Teams will present their prototypes a year from now. After that, 10 finalists will be selected. The winner of X-Prize Tricorder Competition will be announced in 2015.


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