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Invent the Medical Tricorder, Win $10,000,000

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it dept.

Handhelds 167

GeneralSecretary writes "If you've ever watched Star Trek and said, 'Hey, I could build that,' now's your chance. Qualcomm and the X PRIZE Foundation have teamed together to offer ten million US dollars to whomever can invent 'a mobile solution that can diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.' They call it the Tricorder X PRIZE. Hopefully the Tricorder will join the cell phone, MRI, and tablet computer in the list of Star Trek devices that are now part of our lives."

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167 comments

better than a group of doctors?!?! (4, Interesting)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122914)

Can't we start out with just one doctor?

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (5, Funny)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122982)

There is already a device that can diagnose you as well as 1 doctor. It's called a Magic 8-Ball.

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123752)

Well doc, give it to me straight, what have I got.

Signs point to yes

What?

yes

So i've got yes?

My sources say no

Is that a good thing?

no

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (2)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123380)

This has already been done by an Australian. It's a micro-lab basically. It was on a TV show called The New Inventors where inventions are showcased.

Maybe if they learnt to use a decent search engine they'd have found this:

http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/309857/handheld_lab_receives_innovic_gong/ [lifescientist.com.au]

and this:

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s2669552.htm [abc.net.au]

Looks like an Aussie gets the $10m.

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (1)

juancn (596002) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123702)

This has already been done by an Australian. It's a micro-lab basically. It was on a TV show called The New Inventors where inventions are showcased.

Maybe if they learnt to use a decent search engine they'd have found this:

http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/309857/handheld_lab_receives_innovic_gong/ [lifescientist.com.au]

and this:

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s2669552.htm [abc.net.au]

Looks like an Aussie gets the $10m.

Actually the thing you refer to still needs a doctor to make a diagnosis. The X-prize asks for the device to make the diagnosis, this includes analyzing all symptoms, not just running a few tests.

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123876)

Which is obnoxious to all the geeks in the audience, who realise that there is absolutely no medical tool in Star Trek (excepting perhaps the EMH) that goes beyond elaborate sensory interpretation—we always see the doctors pointing to displays of evidence for a disease or disorder, never a printout of diagnoses. [Popular Hollywood] science fiction never dreamt of this madness!

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36124040)

They are asking for a tricorder like device to diagnose "better than a panel of board certified physicians".

First, one doctor or nurse (yes, this can be used by a nurse that is trained) is not a "panel". Secondly, a tricorder required a doctor to make sense of the diagnosis in Star Trek, thus why Dr McCoy was needed. Otherwise they wouldn't need a ship's doctor or even a medical bay.

Aside from this, MycroLab can be used by a non-physician. As the inventor, Micah Atkin, says "my invention supplies fast, accurate, life-saving information to untrained users anywhere in the world".

Sorry, you've failed at looking smart.

Re:better than a group of doctors?!?! (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123884)

They do seem to be coming at this from a funny direction-- replacing a doctor with a electronic frob will tend to greatly increase complexity for most kinds of examinations. To do something as simple as clearing a belly, for example, you can either invent a tricorder with some kind of low-grade tomography or sonogram imaging, or you can train a nurse who can do it in five seconds with superior quality. What the world probably needs a lot more than a tricorder is armies of people with a week of training, perhaps augmented by some kind of expert and telepresence system.

The idea they describe in TFA doesnt so much resemble a tricorder as it does the auto-diagnosis machine from Idiocracy, where the dude puts a tube up your nose, in your ear, up your butt and in your mouth and your aliment pops up on a carwash gantry.

What a deal (2)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122922)

So for only $10 millions dollars you can buy a device that is worth billions. Yeah right.

Re:What a deal (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122938)

it is about the prestige... not the ROI.

Do you really think Space Ship 1 was designed and built for less than 10 million?

Re:What a deal (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123348)

it is about the prestige... not the ROI.

Yeah, because inventing a FRIGGIN TRICORDER wouldn't be prestigious enough on it's own. Probably wouldn't even make the 5th page of the local paper.

Tricorder Misdiagnosed (5, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123382)

I don't believe the tricorders as presented in varies incarnation of Star Trek TV shows/movies are actually capable of diagnosing any ailment; each device is merely a collection of high precision sensors. The physician holding the device is the one that is making the diagnoses base on the data presented by the device.

Re:Tricorder Misdiagnosed (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123832)

Which makes me wonder if what the prize is after is just symptoms -> diagnosis recommendation, the ultimate miniaturized diagnostic equipment machine, or both. The winning criteria sounds like diagnosis alone, where the rest of the article talks about all the wireless sensors, networking, etc.

What are the rules? (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123572)

So for only $10 millions dollars you can buy a device that is worth billions. Yeah right.

What are the rules of the contest? Is there any language that says you can't file patents for your invention -- or parts of it -- before submitting? $10 million would be a nice chunk of seed capital.

no more royalty, secret security gass passers etc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36122936)

if one can have such things, then every citizen is entitled to same, or nothing for either. no kidding. you call this 'weather'?

Zeus canon being fired down under southern hillary (Score:-1)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 11, @01:21PM (#36096090)
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with after all?
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majority of the planet's chosen to be depopulated, population. as the
biblical fiction based chosen ones have only one ability, which is
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ambitions.
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as put forth in the teepeeleaks etchings. the natives still have no words
in their language to describe the events following their 'discovery' by
us, way back when. they do advise that it's happening again.
Due to excessive bad posting from this IP or Subnet, anonymous comment
posting has temporarily been disabled. You can still login to post.
However, if bad posting continues from your IP or Subnet that privilege
could be revoked as well. If it's you, consider this a chance to sit in
the timeout corner or login and improve your posting. If it's someone
else, this is a chance to hunt them down. If you think this is unfair,
please email moderation@slashdot.org with your MD5'd IPID and SubnetID,
which are always changing, you butthead
--
This message has been scanned for viruses and
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retrollted by the diaper leaks group world wide

Purely Symbolic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36122940)

If you invented a star-trek quality tricorder single-handedly you'd probably end up screwed out of your invention or a billionaire. Also guessing that if a team was making it more than 10 million would be spent on development. Having said that it's good PR and gets people thinking.

Having said that why isn't Qualcomm and X Prize doing their own research? That's what's irritating, like how ever elected official says how we must invest in science / nasa, does nothing about it, and then disappears a decade or so later.

Re:Purely Symbolic (1)

Jakester2K (612607) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123342)

Having said that why isn't Qualcomm and X Prize doing their own research? That's what's irritating, like how ever elected official says how we must invest in science / nasa, does nothing about it, and then disappears a decade or so later.

Why are you still surprised by this? We've all been commercial software beta testers for decades.

Why shouldn't they make use of the crowd-brain, and then reap the rewards themselves?

Seems to be a pretty proven business model....

App for that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36122950)

https://market.android.com/details?id=org.hermit.tricorder&feature=search_result

According to this thing... (5, Funny)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122962)

"...you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded!"

Re:According to this thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123014)

"where's your tattoo?"

Re:According to this thing... (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123158)

Don't worry scrote! There's plenty of tards out there living kickass lives! My last wife was tarded, and now she's a pilot!

Re:According to this thing... (4, Funny)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123268)

"Okay. This one goes in your mouth. This one's for your ear. And... This one goes in your butt."
[scrambles plugs]
"No wait, THIS one goes in your mouth, ..."

Done (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122968)

Have an iPad point to http://easydiagnosis.com/ [easydiagnosis.com]

Medical expert systems already diagnose better than human doctors. What they can't do is figure out the best way to bill your insurance. That requires real intelligence.

Re:Done (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123064)

I think they want something that can do scanning of vitals and make the diagnosis based on the information gathered, not "manually enter a list of data and see what I have to say".

A system that scans means you do not have to be a trained clinician to capture vitals (perhaps even signs that are not part of today's standard instrumentation) and diagnose.

Re:Done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123100)

Medical expert systems already diagnose better than human doctors since the 1970s [wikipedia.org].

Re:Done (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123140)

Have you actually read the original study? The conditions are so restricted and and number of people involved so small that we can barely conclude anything.

Re:Done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123118)

There is never any *best way* to bill insurance, but judging by what is required this might work:

cat /dev/urandom > lp0

mail & cross your fingers.

Simplify (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36122988)

Figure out how to create a device that can detect common STDs and determine if the person constantly sneezing, has allergies or ebola, and you will be immensely rich.
I have no idea if sneezing is a symptom of Ebola, I was trying to make a point.

Re:Simplify (3, Insightful)

Krater76 (810350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123044)

Figure out how to create a device that can detect common STDs and determine if the person constantly sneezing, has allergies or ebola, and you will be immensely rich. I have no idea if sneezing is a symptom of Ebola, I was trying to make a point.

I think the bleeding from all of your orifices might rule out allergies.

Re:Simplify (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123290)

with all the commas and run on sentences, I just assumed he wanted to know if an Ebola patient that was sneezing had allergies.

Re:Simplify (2)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123748)

I think the bleeding from all of your orifices might rule out allergies.

Yes, but it still leaves open the possibility you're listening to a Justin Beiber album.

Re:Simplify (1)

p3anut (1131451) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123936)

I think the bleeding from all of your orifices might rule out allergies.

I don't know, I get pretty crazy hayfever!

You want one... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123002)

... that sounds and looks like a Tricorder or something that actually works?

"and behind this little panel is where we put the Altarian Nanocat for Cat Scans..."

Really? "Panel of doctors"? (1)

soren42 (700305) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123008)

That's a rather subjective winning criteria... I've met *many* "panels of doctors" that are no better than an iPad.

Difficult (4, Insightful)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123020)

You'd need...

Broken bones: something that bounces off bone and can detect the time to travel which will determine fractures and breaks. If you're using a flat scanning device, everything needs to bounce off something inside the body, rather than pass through and imprint itself on x-ray paper, etc.

Diseases: Lasers can tell blood type now (I think)...might be you could fine tune it to detect anything from genes to bacteria.

Muscle and ligament tears: same deal as bone I suppose -- would need to reflect off of a certain type of material.

Internal bleeding: scan for pools of blood versus the normal trails of blood (veins, arteries, capillaries)

My only question is why we need 4 different devices (MRI, pad, phone, tricorder)...I'd fully expect this to have solar-rechargeable batteries and a form factor that can fit in my back pocket (which would require a wide-angle "lens" for the probes so it doesn't take you 20 minutes to scan someone). And I darn well better hear the "wee-ooo, wee-ooo" sound without having to put on headphones!

Re:Difficult (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123078)

Check out the GE Vscan. A handheld ultra sound machine with built in display.

The real trick will be modifying the sensor head so that it can pick up variations, and simplifying the interface for identifying problem areas.

Then you just need a portable blood sampling device.

Re:Difficult (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123242)

No, the trick is understanding that different imaging modalities give different, and incomplete, pictures. The current level of technology in imaging currently precludes any sort of device like this. Decent MRI scanners still fill an entire room, ultrasound scanners with good resolution still take a trolley that has to be wheeled, not carried. X-rays don't bounce, they penetrate or are absorbed, so would need a two-part system (and a lead apron for the user). No one of these modalities will cover every possible diagnosis (for instance, ultrasound is good for abdomens, but useless for brains except in babies). I'm not saying that a 'medical tricorder' will never be possible, but at the moment there is no way to miniaturise and combine all those different technologies into one device. Something like the GE Vscan is amazing, but that sort of device would be for crude imaging, like am I going to hit the artery with this introducer, is there fluid around the heart, is there a fetal heartbeat present. You'd be crazy to use a handheld scanner for detailed imaging and diagnosis.

Re:Difficult (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123414)

No, the trick is understanding that different imaging modalities give different, and incomplete, pictures. The current level of technology in imaging currently precludes any sort of device like this. Decent MRI scanners still fill an entire room, ultrasound scanners with good resolution still take a trolley that has to be wheeled, not carried. X-rays don't bounce, they penetrate or are absorbed, so would need a two-part system (and a lead apron for the user). No one of these modalities will cover every possible diagnosis (for instance, ultrasound is good for abdomens, but useless for brains except in babies). I'm not saying that a 'medical tricorder' will never be possible, but at the moment there is no way to miniaturise and combine all those different technologies into one device. Something like the GE Vscan is amazing, but that sort of device would be for crude imaging, like am I going to hit the artery with this introducer, is there fluid around the heart, is there a fetal heartbeat present. You'd be crazy to use a handheld scanner for detailed imaging and diagnosis.

That's correct - with the OTHER caveat is that interpreting the data is hard. Which is why we make radiologists sit in darkened rooms all day and night and it takes about 10 years to grow one.

There are limited areas where computer analysis has helped humans interpret radiological data (ie mammograms) but they aren't all good and typically just help out with the part of the analysis that humans are terrible at (looking at large quantities of boring data) rather than figuring out things on their own.

Re:Difficult (1)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123906)

X-rays don't bounce, they penetrate or are absorbed, so would need a two-part system (and a lead apron for the user).

Hold on. If x-rays either penetrate or are absorbed why does the user need a lead apron? Why can't they just stand behind the machine and be safe?

Re:Difficult (4, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123774)

At a previous company we worked on hand held ultrasound before GE (and the thing in their commercials looks suspiciously like a prototype/patents we had so I may send off some emails to see what's up with that). Went away from that design since it was a bit bulky and inconvenient since there were a lot of electronics added to the transducer. Instead a portable hand carry device instead that has enough room to get top of the line image quality, but it can also be docked to a full size cart. People really want the hand held stuff for emergency rooms or disasters but not for day to day use. I think the biggest selling points were image quality and low cost and the portability was a "just in case we need it" afterthought.

But then this is just ultrasound. That doesn't give you a full range of stuff you need to know. It isn't good at detecting cracked bones, it won't handle cranial problems, some types of tissues it won't distinguish very well, it requires good training to use it well, etc. You'll need more than one type of modality. You can shrink down ultrasound but you won't have such luck with MRI. Then when you're done you still need to be good at diagnostics and you're going to need a human for that; ie is that lump part of a spleen or is it a tumor, is that a lesion or a shadow, is the liver missing or am I just holding it wrong? Computer imaging just isn't that good yet, and when the imaging does get that good then you need the AI part to determine what the image means.

The "everything all in one device" is pure fiction. You're going to need multiple devices to gather the data, and then you upload it all to a big computer to analyze. The problem is that all this stuff exists in a hospital but what you need these smaller devices for is for when you're not at a hospital and you may not even have network connectivity.

Re:Difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123282)

Get back to us when you've fine tuned lasers to detect bacteria. I'll be interested to see that.

Re:Difficult (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123384)

"Broken bones: something that bounces off bone and can detect the time to travel which will determine fractures and breaks. If you're using a flat scanning device, everything needs to bounce off something inside the body, rather than pass through and imprint itself on x-ray paper, etc."

I'm thinking it would be a challenge - at best - to find something other than X-rays that will pass through skin but not bone. Why not just add a "medical tricorder"-style hand gadget that emits X-rays, put that on one side of the area to be imaged, and the "tricorder" (which would act as the digital X-ray "film" plate) on the other?

Make the whole back panel of the "tricorder" flip up to reveal the X-ray imaging plate, like the panel on the back of Soviet Geiger counters that flips up for when you want to detect beta radiation.

Re:Difficult (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123698)

Why not just add a "medical tricorder"-style hand gadget that emits X-rays, put that on one side of the area to be imaged, and the "tricorder" (which would act as the digital X-ray "film" plate) on the other?

That'd be like carrying around a pager AND a cell phone. Who's going to want to do that? :-)

  You just need something that sends out a wavelength that will:

1) Penetrate fat and muscle (and all the things that constitute those)
2) Does not penetrate bone
3) Has enough backscatter (reflection) in an intensity enough to not kill people and still give a detailed picture of the bone
4) Profit

More likely it would be a noise canceling thing -- something like a gas chromatograph (picks out energy excitation from particular elements, letting you know what the contents of a gas is), that then just doesn't display the stuff you don't care about. So it analyzes everything, but only gives you back bone in detail.

Re:Difficult (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123804)

Pass through skin but not bone... Hmm... How about sound or magnetism? Wait, we already have that in ultrasound and MRI!

And x-rays are not safe for common use. You don't actually need a portable device for detecting broken bones. Does the arm hurt badly? Yes, so you splint or immobilize it and get the patient to a real hospital then you move to the next patient. The portable devices would be used for triage use and emergencies. There's little use in the field for determining if there is actually a hairline fracture or not.

No device would be complete... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123816)

Without the anal probe option. Just because no visit to the doctor would be complete without some sort of humiliation. You can substitute a very very very long boot up time, if you wish, so simulate the waiting room.

Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (2)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123058)

When I think of this kind of thing, I get the impression we're trying to solve the wrong problem. Would it make more sense to develop chips and systems that could be embedded _inside_ people? That way they could continuously monitor the person (somehow) and a 'tricorder' would simply extract data out of the systems inside the person

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123238)

Would it make more sense to develop chips and systems that could be embedded _inside_ people?

No, because of allergies.

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (1)

Alyred (667815) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123528)

Good thing the inventor of the Pacemaker didn't think like that.

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123584)

No, because of allergies.

You're allergic to titanium?

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36124074)

I'm allergic to big brother. Oh wait.. as long as this transfers the data wirelessly, I cannot charge the US government for tapping into this, correct? Or wait.. do I have something backwards?

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123318)

That too is from Star Trek. I think they were called... The Borg.

Re:Maybe trying to solve it the wrong way? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123378)

That too is from Star Trek. I think they were called... The Borg.

No, they were called nanosonds. The Borg were those applying them.

Bonus prize (1)

mrsam (12205) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123060)

There's one aspect of this competition that, for some reason, is not widely reported: an optional million dollar bonus to this competition.

The bonus gets awarded if the tricorder is designed so that when can't detect the patient's vital, it flashes "He's dead, Jim" on its display.

Old Joke (3, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123072)

One day Bill complained to his friend that his elbow really hurt. His friend suggested that he go to a computer at the drug store that can diagnose anything quicker and cheaper than a doctor.

''Simply put in a sample of your urine and the computer will diagnose your problem and tell you what you can do about it. It only costs $10." Bill figured he had nothing to lose, so he filled a jar with a urine sample and went to the drug store. Finding the computer, he poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer started making some noise and various lights started flashing. After a brief pause out popped a small slip of paper on which was printed: "You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water. Avoid heavy lifting. It will be better in two weeks."

Later that evening while thinking how amazing this new technology was and how it would change medical science forever, he began to wonder if this machine could be fooled. He mixed together some tap water, a stool sample from his dog and urine samples from his wife and daughter. To top it off, he masturbated into the concoction. He went back to the drug store, located the machine, poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer again made the usual noise and printed out the following message:

"Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. Your dog has worms. Get him vitamins. Your daughter is using cocaine. Put her in a rehabilitation clinic. Your wife is pregnant with twin girls. They aren't yours. Get a lawyer. And if you don't stop jerking off, your tennis elbow will never get better."

* Cribbed from some dumb site [jokes.com]

Re:Old Joke (1)

2PAIRofACES (302747) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123280)

Far better punchline "Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. Your dog is going to die. Your wife is pregnant, it's not yours. Your daughter is pregnant, it is yours. And if you don't stop jerking off, your tennis elbow will never get better."

Well, there may be a way. (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123084)

Every molecule has a unique absorption frequency. So long as you can identify what absorbption bands are present - very very accurately - you're 99% of the way there. The other 1% requires you to create a catalog of such frequencies by scanning pure samples of pathogens.

A second approach would require nanotech and would be extremely slow. Basically, the idea would be to build a device that mimics the cell's mechanism for reading DNA strands and to maintain some sort of internal state that acted in the manner of a cryptographic hash. Once it has calculated the hash, you'd need some way of reading the value. Not sure how you'd do that part, or how you'd even retrieve the device. But again you're getting a value and hunting through a dictionary to see if it is present. If it is, the pathogen is there. If it isn't, it isn't.

Re:Well, there may be a way. (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123478)

Every molecule has a unique absorption frequency. So long as you can identify what absorbption bands are present - very very accurately - you're 99% of the way there. The other 1% requires you to create a catalog of such frequencies by scanning pure samples of pathogens.

Huh? What kind of "absorption frequency" are we talking about here? IR spectroscopy (doesn't work well in complex samples), NMR (ditto), UV (ditto). Taking a human body and disassembling it into component molecules would give you 1) and enormous amount of static data that wouldn't help you much in a living organism 2) a pissed off sample, er, patient and 3) a big mess.

Problems in biology are rarely as simple as the presence or absence of something. It's how things interact.

A second approach would require nanotech and would be extremely slow. Basically, the idea would be to build a device that mimics the cell's mechanism for reading DNA strands and to maintain some sort of internal state that acted in the manner of a cryptographic hash. Once it has calculated the hash, you'd need some way of reading the value. Not sure how you'd do that part, or how you'd even retrieve the device. But again you're getting a value and hunting through a dictionary to see if it is present. If it is, the pathogen is there. If it isn't, it isn't.

Again, you seem to think that medicine is all about 'pathogens'. It's not. Lots of times the nasty little pathogens live happily ever after in your body. Occasionally they become pathogenic. Having a particular molecular ID isn't very helpful. You're also missing epigenetic phenomena (Covalent attachment to DNA from non genomic sources), the poorly understood but likely very important small RNA molecule interactions and a host of other things. Again the complex interactions between the organism, it's internal machinery, the external environment and time make reductionism in biology rather difficult. We really don't understand anything more complex than the tobacco mosaic virus and sub molecular detail.

Re:Well, there may be a way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36124078)

Where are my mod points when I need them?

As my m-bios prof once said when an idiot asserted that something he read on Slashdot overrode the text (which the prof had co-written, and is widely used), "Ah, Slashdot, where any jackass can be heard, and other jackasses will believe him. No, you're completely wrong."

Thank you for correcting the grandparent Slashdot jackass.

Re:Well, there may be a way. (2)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123900)

Every molecule has a unique absorption frequency. So long as you can identify what absorbption bands are present - very very accurately - you're 99% of the way there.

I worked on a system like this for determining the concentrations of various pollutants in an exhaust stream from industrial smoke stacks. Even though we work only looking for a very small handful of gasses, it was a very hard problem and our solution never really worked very well.

It suffered because of the problem that while every molecule has a unique spectrum of absorption frequencies (saying it is only one frequency is highly over-simplified), unless you have molecules in near isolation (ie, in highly rareified gasses) and the molecules are nice and small, the absorption spectra are quite broad. Now throw in the fact that in a living creature, you have gazillions of different molecules, many of which will be unknown, and the problem becomes intractable because it's underconstrained.

perspective (2, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123096)

1. Star Trek had radio telephones, not "cell phones" - they've been around since before WW2: dumb tool leaving the thinking to humans;

2. The Styalator tablet input device was produced in 1957: dumb tool leaving the thinking to humans;

3. The MRI was fairly recent, but PET (and Star Trek didn't distinguish) applied to medical imaging was discussed by Sweet and Brownell in 1953: dumb tool leaving the thinking to humans;

4. The tricorder could be considered a combination of imaging, sensors and an expert system: attempt to replace human judgement with AI.

Unsurprisingly, one of these things is glaringly missing from everyday modern life.

Re:perspective (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123214)

Star Trek's communicators functioned far more like cell phones than old military radiotelephones. They were personal devices that everyone kept on them all the time, and could be used to contact other individuals at will who also wore them, without respect to distance. Sound like anything we all carry these days?

Also, the engineer at Motorola who helped pioneer them claimed to be inspired by Star Trek's communicators.

The Styalator tablet has nothing to do with the Star Trek PADDs that people are comparing modern tablets to. It was/is a pen input device. Fine, but that isn't what was in the show. PADDs were little things that were used instead of paper. They were presented as some kind of electronic device that you could view documents on. Again, tablets are an awful lot like that.

In neither case is it 100% the same, of course. Star Trek is fiction and they were just doing things they thought looked cool. However there are some analogues to be drawn and at least in the case of the cell phone, there was some inspiration there.

In the case of this tricorder they want, it sounds like what they are after is something that can make an accurate first diagnosis for many problems in the hands of a non-doctor. That may not be precisely what a tricorder was on Star Trek (it was kinda a general purpose medical prop) but it'd be damn useful to have.

For one, it would allow doctors to get an easy second opinion. They see a patient and think it is a given problem, but can see what an automated diagnostic thinks as well, and perhaps revise their opinion. It would also allow less trained personnel to make more informed decisions as to what is happening to someone.

For example you could have one at an office. If someone falls unconscious or gets hurt you call 911 of course, but you get out the tricorder and see what it says. Its information can be relayed to the paramedics who can then tell you what to do before they arrive.

Re:perspective (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123326)

Re cellphones: they are so called because they use a network of cells, which is precisely what you don't get when you're visiting other planets. Instead you get the single base station - the ship - and perhaps peer-to-peer, IOW classical radiotelephone.

Re Styalator: Well, yes, until the advent of LCD in the late '60s, merging tablet and screen was going to be a problem. The Dynabook, contemporary with Star Trek, was the realisable conceptual equivalent.

Re the expert system: they're already available in the form of MYCIN and descendants. Perhaps all that's interesting in the Tricorder is the apparent ability to quickly take vital stats without contact, which could of course be useful for pros and laymen.

Re:perspective (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123436)

Actually it's impossible to tell what amount of analysis the Star Trek tricorder does, because it's always the doctor who uses it. There's no way to say how much of the analysis is done by the tricorder, and how much by the doctor using it.

Re:perspective (2)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123948)

Star Trek's communicators functioned far more like cell phones than old military radiotelephones. They were personal devices that everyone kept on them all the time, and could be used to contact other individuals at will who also wore them, without respect to distance. Sound like anything we all carry these days?

They look vaguely like cell phones. They operate like walkie talkies. Cell phones require a network of cells to work. Communicators, like walkie talkies, can directly contact other units. Cell phones are useless on alien planets (unless Doctor Who has jailbroken it for you.)

gates already did it (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123112)

its called the dxbox and has been around for a couple of years. google it. I sure dont see gates turning over rights for a mere $10 million though, that's pocket change.

Just ask about vegetables eaten and vitamin D (-1, Troll)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123142)

And get probably 75% of medical issues diagnosed and cured, as they are mostly nutritional deficiencies... :-)
    http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/foodpyramid.aspx [drfuhrman.com]
    http://drfuhrman.com/library/article16.aspx [drfuhrman.com]
    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/treatment.shtml [vitamindcouncil.org]
    http://www.grassrootshealth.net/ [grassrootshealth.net]

Sure, Omega-3s and Iodine are important too:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/oct/17/prisonsandprobation.ukcrime [guardian.co.uk]
    http://www.iodine4health.com/ [iodine4health.com]
    http://www.bluezones.com/ [bluezones.com]

As is a good night's sleep, friends, family, a connection to that which is beyond us, meaningful work, daily exercise walking and such, and that kind of stuff. And obviously avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and obvious environmental toxins at work and play.

The focus on magic bullets is unfortunate. As is a focus on diagnosing things like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that are mainly signs of vegetable deficiency disease and lack of vitamin D (and to a lesser extent those other issues). Most health rests on the basics. It's true that there are exotic genetic diseases and so on, but what causes the most chronic misery and early death in the industrialized words is these basic nutritional (and sunlight) problems.

Still, for cheap testing, this may be the future through using a paper-with-chemicals test and a cell phone, and such tests could help detect nutritional deficiencies:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/george_whitesides_a_lab_the_size_of_a_postage_stamp.html [ted.com]

Of course, there is not much profit in actually preventing or curing disease, so most of the money pours into diagnosing and treating what are really symptoms of nutritional and lifestyle disorders... It's been that way in part since the misguided Flexner Report:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexner_Report [wikipedia.org]

But yes, this is still a great initiative -- even if it misses the obvious. But there is so little that is obvious (as is said in the Skills of Xanadu): :-)
    http://books.google.com/books?id=wpuJQrxHZXAC&pg=PA51 [google.com]

And of course, in our widely dysfunctional and dying culture, where people mostly eat either long dead carrion (aged factory farmed meat) or ground up long-dead plants (flour and sugar), and much of our entire cultural socio-economic infrastructure is geared around getting everyone to embrace this death-eater cult, it is no metaphorical surprise that the result of being a death eater is that you die early... Related:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/11/the-subsidized-food-pyramid.html [seriouseats.com]
    http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/diet-myths-the-food-pyramid-of-the-insane.html [diseaseproof.com]

Do you really need a "tricorder" to diagnose death-eater disease?

Re:Just ask about vegetables eaten and vitamin D (2)

Theotherguy_1 (1971460) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123464)

And get probably 75% of medical issues diagnosed and cured, as they are mostly nutritional deficiencies... :-)

Not true. Most are pathogenic infectious diseases and accidental injuries. Most in the west are chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. These both have links in genetics, and yes, even diet (in the case of heart disease).

As is a good night's sleep, friends, family, a connection to that which is beyond us, meaningful work, daily exercise walking and such, and that kind of stuff.

Evidence please? I Know that sleep can have adverse effects on health, but it certainly won't cure "75% of diseases.'

And obviously avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and obvious environmental toxins at work and play.

Please tell me what an "obvious environmental toxin" is.

The focus on magic bullets is unfortunate.

No. It isn't. It happens to work! Please study the history of modern medicine.

As is a focus on diagnosing things like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that are mainly signs of vegetable deficiency disease and lack of vitamin D (and to a lesser extent those other issues).

This is a complete lie. Please stop spreading your nonsensical blather on the internet. Heart disease caused by "vegetable deficiency?" Cancer caused by lack of vitamin D? Do you live in the 15th century or something?

Most health rests on the basics. It's true that there are exotic genetic diseases and so on, but what causes the most chronic misery and early death in the industrialized words is these basic nutritional (and sunlight) problems.

Please provide evidence.

You see, what you seem to be promoting is called "holistic medicine." It was a cute practice of the ancient Greeks which sustained itself for many centuries. It was also, unfortunately, mostly wrong. We've made great advances in medicine since then. Please don't attempt to drag us back to the dark ages.

Re:Just ask about vegetables eaten and vitamin D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123482)

Holy hippie nutrionalist essay, batman.

Incredibly broad... and excessivley ambitous. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123154)

I can see figuring out a way to diagnose specific diseases, but all of them? And that's in top of needing to actually invent a handheld device capable of grabbing all that data in the first place.

Now's your chance? (4, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123166)

If you've ever watched Star Trek and said, 'Hey, I could build that,' then why the fuck haven't you?

Re:Now's your chance? (2)

whoda (569082) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123386)

Because I didn't want to do it for Billions in profit.
But, doing it for $10 Million and just for fun sounds like a great idea.

That's not enough money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123190)

Anyone who successfully builds such a device can make a whole lot more than $10,000,000 with it.

Add to the list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123198)

don't forget the sliding door

Microfluidics (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123278)

Couple some sort of microfluidic sensor with ultrasonic holography and couple that to a online database and you pretty much have a medical tricorder.

Re:Microfluidics (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123492)

Don't you have to reverse the tachyon pulse phase to get it to work right?

Re:Microfluidics (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123808)

Image quality won't matter much either since you can always just say "enhance" a few times until it's good enough.

Re:Microfluidics (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123856)

Umm no. I'm being serious and discussing tech that exists today, just not in a small portable device format, yet. But if they can be miniaturized, then there is our tricorder.

Re:Microfluidics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36124010)

No, you have to modulate the shield emitter frequencies.

How stupid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123314)

Most outsiders think that diagnosis is the most important topic in clinical medicine. However, in most common situations diagnosis is not the problem. It is the treatment that has to be planned and adapted to specific clinical circumstances, patient preferences, available means, etc.

Doctors only (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123322)

Unfortunately due to lawsuits (wait for it) the only people allowed to use such a device will end up being trained medical doctors and army medics.

Tricorder not a doctor replacement (1)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123360)

It was a tool, albeit a very advanced one. They still had doctors in Star Trek, so that should tell you something. I never got the impression that tricorders had any AI capabilities - though maybe it could use the results of a general test to choose some more specific tests to run.

The prize criteria set the bar WAY too high, IMO.

Easy (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123582)

According to most comments to this story [slashdot.org], all it takes is that somebody patents a medical tricorder - then it wiil have been bloody obvious to anyone how to build one before the patent application was made.

It's got to be flashy! (1)

greggman (102198) | more than 2 years ago | (#36123732)

I don't just want it to tell me what's wrong. I want it to show me cool images inside my body like this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry3w6fbT7rY&feature=related

Already available of the Android... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36123802)

Hey isn't that already available on the android platform? A developer called Moonblink has created a tricorder like app see [http://code.google.com/p/moonblink/wiki/Tricorder] all it needs is to be linked up to the Instant HeartRate app [http://www.instantheartrate.com/android.jsp], online e-med db [http://www.skyscape.com/estore/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductId=2312] and perhaps a retinal scanner using the flash and maybe something to check ketones in the breath and it's almost complete.

Invent it? (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 2 years ago | (#36124012)

No, I guess I couldn't invent it. But I'm willing to bet I could patent it, and then sue whoever does actually invent it later. God Bless America!

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