2014 has already been touted as the year of wearable healthcare. By that I mean items of wearable technology that count steps, sleep and calories, allowing the user to upload, analyse and share their own health data. Indeed, I’m wearing a high-tech bracelet now as I write this (and wondering why I haven’t yet achieved my 12,000th step of the day).
But I want to predict something more exciting in the world of health technology – that of the Tricorder.
If the name Tricorder sounds faintly familiar, then don’t worry. The déjà vu you are experiencing comes from your childhood and more specifically, the bit of your childhood you spent watching old episodes of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry dreamt up the Tricorder so that Dr McCoy could easily and quickly scan the vital statistics of SS Enterprise crew members and aliens alike.
Here’s a clip of one in action:
So you see, the idea is literally pure science fiction. And like individual jet-packs and the Time Tunnel we might have consigned the concept of the Tricorder to the vaults of cult TV history. But for some reason, not least because replica models are still being made and sold on ebay, the notion of the Tricorder has persisted. The idea of being able to diagnose a variety of the most common diseases with a non-intrusive device that gets waved over the body is a powerful and attractive one.
So much so, that if we fast forward 40 odd years to today, we see that the US Government is so in love with the idea that it has launched its own challenge prize – the Tricorder X-prize. The competition will award £10 million dollars to the team that devises a real Tricorder. The winning patent will be the machine that can diagnose 17 of the most common health problems – conditions such as heart disease, diabetes etc.
This competition has sparked interest from all over the world. There are, at time of writing, 22 international and very diverse teams working on developing the 21st century Tricorder.
Getting it right would revolutionise healthcare. It would replace the various intrusive processes we currently have to endure during examination and eradicate the time spent waiting for test results, as well as significantly reducing the cost of diagnosis. In the context of a rapidly aging population, the impact of such a device can’t be overestimated.
The prospect of a real-life version of the device has already been endorsed by Simon Pegg, Scotty in the current Star Trek movies.
My prediction is that in 2014, one of the teams might just crack it and boldly go where only sci-fi has gone before.