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Open Photonics Joins Tricorder X Prize
May 2013
ORLANDO, Fla., May 31, 2013 — Optics and photonics technology acceleration firm Open Photonics Inc. is partnering with X Prize to match photonics researchers with teams competing in the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, the company announced this week.

Sponsored by Qualcomm Foundation, the Tricorder X Prize is a 3.5-year global competition to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies in a wireless handheld device. It is named for the futuristic medical device from the "Star Trek" TV and movie franchise. Currently, 287 teams from 35 countries are preregistered for the competition, which is scheduled to officially choose three winners in 2015. The first-place team will receive $7 million; the second-place team, $2 million; and the third-place team, $1 million.

According to the competition requirements, the submitted device must be able to continuously monitor five vital signs, and it must weigh no more than 5 lb.

Open Photonics said it will serve as an official resource for competing teams, offering access to concepts from photonics research teams interested in developing new optical diagnostic technologies that can be incorporated into mobile platforms. These ideas will be available to registered teams as part of the competition's online marketplace.

"It is possible that more than one-third of the key diagnostic measurements required as part of the guidelines for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize can be made using light," said Dr. Jason Eichenholz, CEO of Open Photonics. "We can not only offer innovative photonic solutions to teams but can also offer to help them accelerate the integration of optical sensing approaches that are both smaller than conventional measurement techniques and increase diagnostic accuracy."

"We suspect that many extraordinary solutions for the prize may emerge because of the unique relevance of photonics in diagnosing several of the health conditions the competition looks to detect," said Mark Winter, senior director of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize.

In April, a team from San Diego State University entered the competition; the team includes more than 60 members from five SDSU colleges.

An early-concept drawing of SDSU's Tricorder prototype, which will be ready for submission in April 2014. Courtesy of SDSU.

The SDSU X Prize team is spearheaded by student Lambert Ninteman, a childhood cancer survivor and lifelong “Star Trek” fan who thought the Tricorder was a fantastic idea long before Qualcomm announced its competition. Ninteman heard about the Tricorder competition the day he was accepted into SDSU’s MBA program and knew entering the competition was something he had to do.

SDSU’s team is working to build a prototype of a scanning device capable of performing physician-grade diagnosis. It will have four external sensors: a camera for visual scans, a fluidics device for lab tests, a surface device for monitoring vital signs, and an acoustic device that functions as a stethoscope.

Teams have until April 10, 2014, to complete their prototype, which must be able to monitor blood pressure, electrocardiography, temperature, respiratory rate and pulse oximetry. It also must be able to accurately diagnose five out of 12 core diseases from a list including anemia, urinary tract infections, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and hepatitis A.

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