x-prize

Holy Spock! The Star Trek Medical Tricorder Is Real, And It’s Only $150
The device you’re looking at is called the Scanadu SCOUT and, basically, it’s a medical tricorder that will give you precise vital information about any human being within seconds, just on contact.

It’s very real and it works now. I tried it myself, and knew I was looking at the beginning of a personal health revolution. Star Trek-level stuff. Except it’s coming at the end of 2013.

And it’s not only SCOUT—the company has two other devices—ScanaFlo and ScanaFlu—which are like having your own medical labs to go. Best of all, those two are so cheap that they are disposable.

SCOUT will not be disposable, though. The unit is a tiny hardware device that reads your vital health information on contact. You simply place it on the left temple and, in less than ten seconds, it will read your pulse transit time, heart rate, electrical heart activity, temperature, heart rate variability and blood oxygenation. Then it sends this information to an app on your iPhone or Android phone, which displays it for you. You can even store your vitals for tracking, which could prove fundamental to many health situations at home.

Watching SCOUT at work was something almost magical, like having one of those giant health monitoring units reduced to a slice of plastic that fits on the palm of your hand. Which, actually, is exactly how it became to be.

How SCOUT was invented
I talked with Walter de Brouwer, the Belgian genius who founded Scanadu after working at MIT and on several high profile tech projects, including One Laptop Per Child. A few years ago, Walter’s own kid ended up in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Frustrated with the complicated devices that monitored his child’s health, he started to think about how could all of this information be turned into something that normal people could understand. He tinkered around at the ICU and became so knowledgeable that he eventually was assisting some of the nurses there, who often would get confused themselves.

Walter thought that there was a need for something that would be able to monitor anyone’s health, anywhere, with ease and at low cost. He thought about instantaneous vital readings, molecular diagnostics, visualization, and storage of personal health data all wrapped in an easy-to-use device that would connect to your smartphone or tablet to show you all the information you could need in a simple way. Not only for yourself, but for remote assistance too.

Most probably, Walter had watched too much Star Trek in his college years. He wanted to make a tricorder. So he did.

How does it work
At first, he thought it was possible. In fact, there are other teams who are working in similar projects to win Qualcomm’s Tricorder X-Prize Competition, or the Nokia Sensing Challenge. So what if all had failed so far?

So Walter started to work on what would become SCOUT, ScanaFlo and ScanaFlu. He assembled four teams of specialists at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Each team—engineers, chemists, doctors, mathematicians and software engineers—worked together to come up with new, smart ways not only to monitor vitals, but to detect actual infections within seconds. According to Walter, they use all the tricks in the book: imaging and sound analysis, molecular diagnostics and data analytics, all combed by “a suite of algorithms to create devices that offer a comprehensive, real-time picture of your health data.”

SCOUT is their first product. This personal health tricorder is so simple that it will cost around $150 when it appears at the end of 2013, after it gets US government approval. It may very well become as ubiquitous as home thermometers, which were introduced in the 19th century. In fact, says Walter, that’s the whole point :

Consumers don’t have the tools they need to monitor their health and make informed decisions about when they’re actually sick and need to see a doctor. We want to empower consumers to take control of their health and give them direct access to their personal healthfeed.

Judging from what I saw, SCOUT may be exactly that.

Detecting infections
Along with SCOUT, I saw two other products that were even more impressive: ScanaFlu and ScanaFlo. I couldn’t get photos of these—they are still in a rough prototype stage—but they are easy enough to visualize.

For ScanaFlo, imagine a disposable blue plastic rectangle with a QR code and a window that reveals paper swatches and a color calibration target (similar to this). To get a reading, you need to pee on the rectangle as one would on a pregnancy test. Depending on the content of your urine, the swatches will change color.

But what do these color mean? You don’t have to guess or remember. Point your smartphone at the QR target and it will take a photo, telling you if it detects anything out of the ordinary based on the hue of the paper swatches, which react differently depending on your health status. According its creators, ScanaFlo tests for “pregnancy complications, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections.”

ScanaFlu works in a similar way. Instead of a rectangle, it’s a square with a small protuberance on which you have to spit. Your saliva will be distributed to different test units using tiny nano-vessels. Incredibly enough, this “disposable cartridge will provide early detection for Strep A, Influenza A, Influenza B, Adenovirus and RSV.” Like ScanaFlo, you will use your phone’s camera to have a result sent to your app.

These disposable systems will be sold in packs, also at the end of 2013.

Why this is the future, and why it is so important
I’m not a hypochondriac, but it’s not hard to see the importance of these devices. While being able to monitor your own health would never eliminate the need for doctors, it could do wonders for everyone’s well-being. These cheap devices will keep track of your own health but, as I discussed with Scanadu’s founder, they can also be easily used to detect infection outbreaks at a national or planetary level, with people anonymously uploading data to a cloud. The Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization can literally keep their fingers on the pulse of the entire planet. The possibilities are truly endless. No wonder Stephen Wolfram is one of their advisors. If they are successful, I can’t wait to see what people can do with all this anonymous data.

If these gadgets can really provide you with instantaneous feedback about your health status for such a low price, this will be the beginning of something much bigger. The monetary savings in prevention alone—and not depending on expensive laboratories for many tests—makes it all worthy.

But even more exciting is the potential increasing accuracy of diagnostics, based on the tracking of data over time. As Dr. Alan Greene, Chief Medical Officer at Scanadu, says:

When it comes to health, averages don’t cut it. Vitals change throughout the day and vary from person to person, so it makes no sense to assume we are all the same. Health decision shouldn’t be based on averages, they should be based on a real, accurate and personalized healthfeed of data, which we now have the power to give to the consumer in the palm of their hand.

Indeed. The future looks good. I’m ready for this, Dr. Bones.

vimeo

The Sky is NOT the Limit  

X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis drops some inspiring words on ya about how space inspired him to create inspiration in others.

“I want my kids to grow up in a world of hope where they know they can go out there and solve the world’s grand challenges.”

Yep. Like he said … you win.

(via Doobybrain)

MOON ROVER ‘ANDY’ TAKES HOME TWO XPRIZE MILESTONE AWARDS, TOTALING $750,000

In the Google Lunar XPrize competition, three-dozen teams are racing to become the first private enterprises to land a rover on the moon. The winner takes home $30 million. But getting there will take time, hard work, and a lot of money.

To help with the latter, the XPrize foundation is handing out “milestone prizes” to teams that demonstrate substantial technological achievements, and the first winner was just announced yesterdayTeam Astrobotic has so far emerged as the front-runner in the race, taking home $500,000 for its mobility capabilities and another $250,000 for its imaging system.

According to XPrize, the Milestone Prizes "are for demonstrating (via actual testing and analysis) robust hardware and software to overcome key technical risks in the areas of imaging, mobility and lander systems.“ To win one, the teams test out pieces of their propulsion, telecommunications, and optics systems in the presence of a judge.

Astrobotic earned its mobility award by proving that Andy can endure the vacuum and high radiation levels on the lunar surface, and that he could drive at least 1600 feet once he gets to the moon. “We’ve shaken it to simulate launch forces, driven it through moon dirt and exposed it to the extremes of lunar temperatures among many, many tests,” William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic team leader, said in a press release. The team thinks that eventually their rover, whose name is Andy, will be capable of navigating giant craters, caves, and polar ice on the moon.

XPrize may announce more Milestone winners in the coming weeks, if other teams can prove their rovers are on track to land on the moon by December 31, 2016. Though the previous deadline was set for December 31, 2015, and a few teams (including Astrobotic) are on target to meet that deadline, XPrize just announced they’re pushing back the deadline by a year to give other teams a fighting chance.

Reaching For The Stars

by Txchnologist Staff

This short film, The Sky is NOT the Limit by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, tells the story of Peter Diamandis, the visionary behind the X Prize Foundation. The organization runs public competitions to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.

The X Prize started as a way to supercharge innovations for space exploration. It offered $10 million to the first team that could successfully launch a reusable manned craft into space twice in two weeks. Scaled Composites, the company behind SpaceShipOne, won the prize in 2004.

Video courtesy Focus Forward Films.

How to Spend Your Entire Income Building a Car that Must Travel 100 Miles on a Single Gallon of Gas

Jason Fagone | Ingenious, Crown Publishing Group | November 2013 | 20 minutes (4,972 words)

Below is the first chapter from Jason Fagone’s new book, Ingenious, about the X Prize Foundation’s $10 million competition to build a car that can travel 100 miles on a single gallon of gas. Thanks to Fagone and Crown Publishing for sharing it with the Longreads community. You can purchase the full book here.

***

We speed west into a bank of mottled clouds and blue-black sky and not much else. We drip with sweat. The launch site is two miles back and counting: the barn where the light is on and the guys are waiting to hear if everything’s okay. We try to talk to one another, we shout and scream, but our words get shredded by motor noise, by a sound like a blender gone berserk, whirring and rising to a blastoff pitch.

There are four of us in here: me, a woman named Jen Danzinger, and two men. The men are in front, firing questions at each other in quick bursts. I’m in back with Jen. She braces a hand against the door. Headlights blaze by in the oncoming lane. I wonder how much the other driver noticed—maybe just a silvery bulge, maybe our vehicle’s whole weird shape. Elongated fuselage, tapering tail. Does he have any idea what the hell he just passed?

Keep reading

Will Penn State go to the moon?  TV show features efforts of Lunar Lion team.

Watch
BTN TV Channel
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Feb. 14 Tuesday, Big Ten Network TV Show “Impact the World”, 8 PM ET

 Features three Big Ten universities’ efforts in

  •   Solar Car Competition
  •   Solar House competition
  •   Spacecraft Competition– includes a Penn State team’s spacecraft called “Lunar Lion” and how they are competing in the Google X Prize Competition.

Click-thru for more on the Lunar X Prize competition.

    Photo by Laurie Creasy

    On NASA's Lunar Heritage Guidelines

    On July 20–part of the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, for those of you who aren’t space geeks–NASA release its Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts (PDF link via the always entertaining CollectSpace). These guidelines are not limited to but are fairly explicitly aimed at the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, many of whom are hoping to win extra prizes in the form of the Apollo Heritage Bonus or the Plain Ol’ Heritage Bonus.  NASA has been working on these guidelines for quite some time and, in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I provided some input to these a long time ago (though I had nothing to do with this draft).

    The release garnered some attention in recent days, e.g. this piece from MSNBC.  Today, blogger/podcaster and erstwhile GLXP-Scorecard-keeper Mike Doornbos posted his own thoughts on these guidelines, and they weren’t all positive.  Key graf:

    An interesting question that the NASA preservation guidelines present is: who gave NASA the right to set those policies for anyone but themselves? [Emphasis in the original]

    Mike was aiming to start a conversation, so I’ll bite. Here are my two cents (as always, these are my own personal thoughts, and were not solicited by and are not necessarily reflective of those of my current or former employer):

    So long as these remain guidelines–that is to say, explicitly non-binding suggestions, rather that laws–I am fine with it. In fact, although I may have some modest differences with what the guidelines say, I view the publication of a set of guidelines as a net positive thing for several reasons.

    The first is that there are valid scientific reasons for both requesting that new lunar visitors do not visit certain sites and, on the flip side, that those visitors do make a point of visiting other sites. Two key pieces of context inform my belief here. The first is that there are still active scientific instruments in place at certain sites, particularly the later Apollo sites. Given both the extreme expense of replacing, refurbishing, or repositioning those experiments and the high scientific value of having a experiment operate in one fixed location over a very long period of time, it would truly be a tragedy for any visitor to unknowingly disturb these sites; and guidelines such as these can be an extremely valuable tool to understand where those experiments are and how they should be dealt with or worked around on future visits.  The second piece of context is that there is high scientific value to revisiting sites of previous missions, even when (or perhaps especially when) they do not have active experiments. This was one of the main justifications for the selection of the Apollo 12 landing site–the Moon is the size of a couple of continents, so they didn’t land right next to an old Surveyor probe just by coincidence. Observing carefully how both the landscape at an old land site and how the hardware itself has changed over the intervening decades can tell us a great deal.  In my opinion, any complete set of these guides should include a healthy list of “please do” requests in addition the “please don’t” items. I was surprised to see that this “please do” aspect was not addressed in the July 2011 release; my hope is that this will be remedied in a future document.

    The second reason is that these guidelines have the potential to greatly improve the social impact of any lunar heritage visits.  During my tenure at the helm of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, I was somewhat surprised by the strength of the negative emotional response to the Heritage Bonuses from a small subset of the population.  We received several letters, phone calls, and emails from individuals (almost always from elderly Americans) who were extremely concerned  that these bonus prizes would lead to the destruction or desecration of these unique historical treasures. While I don’t share that concern–knowing these teams personally, I can say with confidence that no group of people cares more about respecting these lunar heritage sites than the men and women who are dedicating several years of their life to trying to land something on the lunar surface for the first time in decades–it cannot be denied that this is a genuinely and firmly held belief that is shared by a non-trivial number of people.  This fact will in turn serve as a strong disincentive for teams to pursue these Heritage Bonuses, especially when those teams are partially or entirely dependent on donations and corporate sponsorship. If this disincentive dominates, we will have squandered an important and unique opportunity to realize great scientific and social benefit.

    The final reason is that NASA has spent a lot of time and money–indeed, one can plausibly assume that they have spent more money than anyone else in the world or, quite likely, everyone else in the world combined–researching the issues like landing plume impingement, et cetera. If you read through that PDF, you’ll see there is a fair amount of technical detail in there, and most of it is fairly hard earned in terms of both analytical power and real world experiment data. I think these guidelines are a valuable way to disseminate that data out into the community.

    A last thought: I hope future coverage will highlight the fact that these are recommendations (as the document indicates right in the title), rather than rules or laws.  That seems to be an area where there are frequent misinterpretations.

    Let’s Stop Killing Ourselves and Take Some Risks | Peter Diamandis

    I love talking about risk. Because ultimately, the day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea. If it wasn’t a crazy idea the day before, it wouldn’t be a real breakthrough. It would be an incremental improvement. So the question I ask people in their companies, in their organizations is, where are you taking big risks? Because if you’re not taking big risks then you’re destined to not changing anything or making small incremental improvements. But if you’re playing a big game in the world, then you have to take risks.

    I look at the United States, for example, I think we’re killing ourselves on how risk adverse we’ve become. Large government agencies have stopped taking big risks because they’re worried about Congressional investigations. Large corporations stopped taking big risks because they’re worried about stock prices plummeting. And really, the entrepreneurial sector ends up being a place where people are willing to risk it all. You risk you reputation, you risk the capital you raised. But ultimately, you’re going to be potentially changing the world.

    So, I think about risk a lot. And I think about encouraging smart risk taking. Now, taking risks doesn’t mean being stupid. It really involves taking measured risks and really understanding how to mitigate those risks in one way or another. So when we announced the Ansari X Prize, I took a huge risk in announcing it without having the $10 million in place. and ultimately it paid off. It might not have, we might not be having this conversation to day if we never raised the money, but I thought that, you know, ultimately this was a solid enough idea that there would be somebody who would be willing to put up the funds. It took me five years, far longer than I expected. But ultimately in taking that risk, it actually forced me to never give up because I had placed so much on the table in terms of my reputation, the reputation of my friends and colleagues that I couldn’t give up.

    Stay Curious. Watch NASA’s tribute video, “Risk Is Our Business” to further navigate home the human nature of such “risks” in our time..

    NASA asks future Moon visitors to respect its stuff
    Adam Mann - arstechnica >>

    …China, India, and Japan, are looking to put unmanned probes on the lunar surface. But more unprecedented are the 26 teams currently racing to win the Google Lunar X Prize—a contest that will award $20 million to the first private company to land a robot on the lunar surface…

    NASA is asking anyone that makes it to the lunar surface to keep their landing at least 1.2 miles away from any Apollo site and about 1,600 feet from the five Ranger impact sites. The distance should keep the old equipment safe from a terrible accident or collision. It will also would put the new equipment “over the lunar horizon” relative to the relics, and prevent any moon dust—known to be a highly abrasive material—from sandblasting NASA’s old machines.

    The Apollo 11 and 17 sites—the first and last places visited by man—are singled out in particular for extra care and respect. Robots are prohibited from visiting both sites and are requested to remain outside a large radius (250 feet for Apollo 11 and 740 feet for Apollo 17) to prevent a stray rover from accidentally harming hardware or erasing any footprints.

    “Only one misstep could forever damage this priceless human treasure” … >continue<

    Not bad, at least when you don’t have a lunar presence to bolster your enforcement profile.

    Great Quote from a Wired! interview with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation

    “Lawyers have ubiquitous power. If someone is always to blame, if every time something goes wrong someone has to be punished, people quickly stop taking risks. Without risks, there can’t be breakthroughs. I got this from Internet law expert Jonathan Zittrain: We’ve gone from a society where if something wasn’t prohibited then it was legal to a society where if something isn't explicitly permitted it’s illegal. In the early days of aviation, you could do anything you wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal. Now the laws are so extensive that they say, ‘Show me where it’s allowed.’”

    – Peter Diamandis, Founder of the X Prize Foundation, which offers big cash prizes for achieving milestones in flight. This particular quote rang true in the very little interaction I’ve had with entertainment lawyers in the comedy industry. Everyone is just so afraid of pissing anyone off. 

    4

    WHY “LUNAR LION” ?

    WHY does Penn State call their program (competing to send their robot on a spacecraft to the Moon) LUNAR LION ?

    1. First part is easy
    Lunar refers to the Moon.

    2. Second part is team spirit
    Penn State’s mascot is a lion (that we call the Nittany Lion named after Nittany Ridge near the Pennsylvania–University Park campus.)

    Lunar Lion website: LunarLion.psu.edu

    [Images credit Penn State News, Patrick Mansell. Licensing–Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative]


    We will post thru-out the competition.
    See #Lunar Lion for more.

    Orbital Sciences Replaces SpaceX on Stratolaunch Project

    image: An artist’s impression of the Stratolaunch Systems carrier aircraft. CREDIT: Dynetics/Stratolaunch Systems

    After the exit of launch services provider Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Corp. as its rocket subcontractor, Stratolaunch Systems has turned to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to keep the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system on track for a 2017 test flight.

    “We have been engaging Orbital over the past few months and have them under a study contract through early next year with specific design deliverables,” Stratolaunch chief executive Gary Wentz wrote in a Nov. 28 email. “They are currently evaluating several alternative configurations that appear promising. We expect more information to be available in the February 2013 timeframe.”

    What those configurations were, neither Stratolaunch nor Orbital would say. Huntsville, Ala.-based Stratolaunch had been banking on using a liquid-fueled booster from SpaceX. Orbital specializes in solid-fueled rockets. The first stage of the liquid-fueled Taurus 2 rocket Orbital expects to debut in 2013 relies on a Ukranian-supplied first stage powered by a rebadged Russian engine. While the company has extensive experience with air-launched systems, it has not built one with the payload-carrying capacity that Stratolaunch seeks.

    Orbital’s solid-fueled Pegasus rocket, which can loft 450 kilograms to low Earth orbit, has logged 41 launches since 1990. Only three of these were failures, according to an online mission history maintained by Orbital. However, Pegasus-class business has all but dried up. The single Pegasus XL launch of 2012 was the rocket’s first flight in four years, and there is only one Pegasus XL mission on Orbital’s manifest today: the April 2013 launch of NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph space telescope.

    Still, Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski denies that the company had agreed to work with Stratolaunch in the hope of finding a project for the roughly 100 Orbital employees whose jobs would be at risk if the company cannot find more Pegasus customers soon.

    “I don’t think that’s our primary motivation, to make work for people,” Beneski said in a Nov. 28 phone interview. “Stratolaunch asked us to come up with some concepts, and air launch is something that Orbital has always been known for.”

    Stratolaunch is backed by billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and boasts a roster heavy with former NASA personnel. The company was introduced to the public in December 2011 at a press event in Seattle, where Allen’s philanthropic organization Vulcan Inc. is headquartered.

    Stratolaunch plans to build an enormous air-launch system that, in its original configuration with a SpaceX rocket, was to be capable of lofting 6,100 kilograms to low Earth orbit or 2,300 kilograms to geosynchronous orbit. Scaled Composites, Mojave, Calif., was tapped to build the system’s twin-boom mothership: a massive, 222,000-kilogram airplane with a 117-meter wingspan capable of flying 2,400 kilometers from a launch site before deploying a rocket. Dynetics Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., is building the mating and integration system that will secure the rocket to its carrier aircraft.

    Technical difficulties

    As first reported by Flightglobal.com Nov. 27, the main reason Stratolaunch and SpaceX parted ways was because SpaceX, decided it did not want to disrupt its Hawthorne, Calif., assembly line to accommodate the design changes required to turn its nine-engine, liquid-fueled Falcon 9 into a four- or five-engine air-launched booster.

    “We agreed with SpaceX that to meet our design requirements, the existing Falcon 9 architecture would require significant structural modifications to incorporate a fin/chine and to be carried horizontally,” Wentz said. “As we studied the design, it became apparent that SpaceX would have to make significant modifications to their manufacturing process to accommodate our configuration, which would have a pronounced effect on their business model.”

    A chine is an extension that joins a wing’s leading edge to a craft’s fuselage. Chines help generate lift at supersonic speeds.

    SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson, reached by email Nov. 27, declined to comment for this story. SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told the Royal Aeronautical Society in mid-November that “there’s likely to be some changes in [the Stratolaunch] program” but declined further comment.

    Wentz said that SpaceX and Stratolaunch are still closing out SpaceX’s contract, which the company signed last year. He would not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

    When Stratolaunch debuted, Allen, who also bankrolled the historic 2004 flight of SpaceShipOne, said he expected to spend “at least an order of magnitude more” on Stratolaunch than he spent on SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne, a suborbital spaceplane designed by famed aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, won the $10 million X Prize in 2004 by staging two privately operated flights to an altitude of 100 kilometers within a two-week period. Developing SpaceShipOne cost about $28 million, Allen has said.

    External image

    Source: SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration
    The X Prize combines philanthropists with real world know-how.

    Charitable investors have no lack of worthy causes in which to consider investing. There are many worthy fields that all need assistance, and all of them have an impressive volume of groups interested in doing their part to help the needs in their given area. So how does a wealthy investor know which group can best use the assistance? Which group can get the best effect for the money? The  X Prize Foundation offers an interesting solution to this predicament.

    The X Prize Foundation focuses on a given issue plaguing humanity, and reaches out to an interdisciplinary pool of knowledgeable academics and professionals to do together what none of them have the skills alone to do. It means that while charitable contributors are only paying for one team’s results, the collective effort of every entrant in the X Prize competition is striving to reach the given goal.

    The X prize foundation is fundamentally reworking the way philanthropists invest their hard earned income. Instead of guessing which charitable foundation will get you the results you would expect with your contribution, organizations must now achieve the needed results to win the cash prize. This will be a great step forward for any field the X Prize focuses its attention on, making this foundation a great boon to humanitarian causes everywhere.

    Private Moon Race May Spark Lunar ‘Water Rush’
    Image: The Polaris lunar rover is designed to prospect for water ice on the moon.
    CREDIT: Astrobotic

    A private race to the moon with robotic probes may kick off a lunar “water rush” that helps humanity explore asteroids, Mars and other deep-space destinations, some scientists say.

    The 25 privately funded teams competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize may perform vital prospecting work that will lay the foundation for large-scale exploitation of moon water, leading to cheaper and more efficient space exploration, the idea goes.

    “This is like the gold rush that led to the settlement of California,” Phil Metzger, a physicist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said in a statement. “This is the water rush.”

    The lure of lunar water
    The Google Lunar X Prize is an international challenge to land a robot on the moon’s surface, have it travel at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and send data and images back to Earth.

    The first privately funded team to do all of this will receive the $20 million grand prize. An additional $10 million is set aside for second place and various special accomplishments, such as detecting water, bringing the prize’s total purse to $30 million.

    NASA and other space agencies are particularly interested in the water-detection part of the challenge. They hope the teams — such as one led by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, Inc. — help ground-truth observations made from orbit, which have spotted water ice in craters near the lunar poles.

    “We really need to get vehicles on the surface of the moon prospecting to characterize those deposits, like how do they vary spatially, how do they vary with depth?” Metzger said.

    Moon water could be used for much more than just slaking astronauts’ thirst. Split into its component hydrogen and oxygen, it could also provide air for them to breathe and — perhaps most importantly — propellant for their spaceships, which could refuel at orbiting “gas stations.”

    “There have been studies that have shown you can reduce the mass of a mission to Mars by a factor of somewhere between three and five if you get propellants from the space environment rather than launching them all from Earth,” Metzger said.

    Launching soon
    In April, Astrobotic signed a contract with NASA to continue to develop technologies the space agency may use to harvest space resources in the future. And the company’s X Prize plans are coming along; Astrobotic aims to launch a lander and rover to the moon on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket less than three years from now.

    “Our intent is to land on the surface of the moon in October 2015 and find water,” said Astrobotic president John Thornton.

    Astrobotic will test its rover and tools in a special bin of simulated lunar soil at Kennedy Space Center.

    “You have to be able to go to the moon with some confidence that your vehicle’s going to be able to get around and to dig in the soil,” Thornton said.

    The fact that so many other teams are vying to beat Astrobotic to the moon shows that the potential to find and exploit lunar resources is real, he added.

    “If we were doing something really big and no one else was trying to do it, then it might not be that big,” Thornton said.

    Watch: The Polaris Lunar Rover

    Tricorder X Prize competition: develop a handheld medical diagnostic device

    The X Prize Foundation and Qualcomm Foundation today announced the launch of the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a global competition to revolutionize healthcare.

    In this competition, teams will leverage technology innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and wireless sensing — much like the medical Tricorder of Star Trek fame — to make medical diagnoses independent of a physician or healthcare provider.

    The goal of the competition is to drive development of devices that will give consumers access to their state of health in the palm of their hand.

    The $10 million prize purses will be awarded to the team that develops a mobile platform that most accurately diagnoses a set of 15 diseases across 30 consumers in three days. Teams must also deliver this information in a way that provides a compelling consumer experience while capturing real time, critical health metrics such as blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature.

    The winning solutions will enable consumers in any location to quickly and effectively assess health conditions, determine if they need professional help and answer the question “What do I do next?” when it comes to their health. The system will diagnose diseases, measure vital signs, and assess health state (both sickness and wellness) through single point-in-time as well as ongoing measurement.

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    X Prize Foundation CEO Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, joined the Chair of the Qualcomm Foundation and CEO of Qualcomm, Dr. Paul Jacobs, during the keynote presentation today at CES in Las Vegas to announce this exciting advancement.

    The desire to provide consumers real-time data regarding their own health is of personal interest to both Drs. Diamandis and Jacobs. “There is a dire need to improve access to healthcare globally and provide consumers with an opportunity to be active participants in their own health,” said Dr. Diamandis. “The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize will incent the creation of technologies that can empower the consumer with the ability to decide when, where and how to seek health information and care.”

    The Qualifying Round will take place in approximately 27–28 months to select 10 teams, based on a controlled demonstration of sensor validity; and an evaluation of supporting studies, multimedia, and prototypes. The Final Round is scheduled to occur in approximately 39–40 months.

    Click here to learn more.

    HEROES WANTED! XPRIZE IS LAUNCHING A VIDEO CONTEST FOR 8- to 17-YEAR- OLDS TO FORM THE REAL-LIFE BIG HERO 6

    HEROES WANTED! XPRIZE IS LAUNCHING A VIDEO CONTEST FOR 8- to 17-YEAR- OLDS TO FORM THE REAL-LIFE BIG HERO 6

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    XPRIZE has joined forces with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Disney Corporate Citizenship for today’s launch of a nationwide video contest designed to find the real-life counterparts to the animated heroes that will soon burst onto the big screen in “BIG HERO 6,” an action-packed comedy-adventure from Disney opening November 7, 2014.

    The DISNEY BIG HERO 6 – XPRIZE CHALLENGE invites…

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