The tricorder is the Swiss Army knife of the Star Trek Universe, a handheld device capable of scanning and instantly diagnosing a patient (human or otherwise).

The earthly applications aren’t lost on trekkie Bill Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation & Grand Challenges Canada are investing $38.5 million to replicate a tricorder, which would be a literal life safer in developing countries where doctors typically wait days for results.

Peter Singer, executive officer of Grand Challenges, calls diagnosis the neglected cousin of prevention and treatment. “More rapid diagnosis of malaria alone could prevent 100,000 deaths a year. We believe this and other life-saving opportunities are within our reach. We think we can have a device like the medical ‘tricorder’ in 6-7 years,” said Singer.

Earlier this year, the X PRIZE Foundation announced it will offer a $10 million prize to develop a mobile solution that can diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.

Eugene Wesley “Rod” Roddenberry, Jr., son of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, commented, “It is great to see two amazing organizations — the X PRIZE Foundation and Qualcomm — bring the technology of Star Trek to life and make the Tricorder a reality for people everywhere.”

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