From Science Fiction to Reality: Our Tricorder Journey

Science fiction became reality for us at Pivot last week. That’s because on April 12th, the Canadian Cloud DX team we’re proud to be a part of, won the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE’s (QTXP) first ever Bold Epic Innovator Award in sunny Los Angeles.

With Cloud DX, we have been working to bring the Tricorder (yes, like the one in Star Trek)—a diagnostic device and wearable—to life. We call it the Vitaliti.

A photo of teh Vitaliti system, wearable, and app

We worked closely with our product design team at Cortex Design Inc., to develop the best vitals monitoring and diagnostic tool independent of a healthcare professional or facility.

As the user research and experience experts on the Cloud DX team, Pivot designed the app’s information architecture, diagnostic decision algorithms and user interface. Basically, we collaborated with Cloud DX’s MD, Dr. Sandeep (Sonny) Kohli, to create the inner logic that not only determines how users interact with the device, but also how the device thinks.

Challenges and triumphs

In 2012, more than 300 teams from around the world applied for the QTXP. By August 2014, the competition was down to 10 finalists, including Cloud DX. Two years later, there were only six teams left in the running for the $9 million QTXP and they all had to present their Tricorders for human trials. Cloud DX, however, experienced some challenges at this phase due to delays from Health Canada—three other teams also struggled at this point.

Meanwhile, the folks at QTXP recognized these bureaucratic limitations, so they created the Bold Epic Innovator Award for teams that weren’t able to complete human testing in time to qualify for the main prize.

Despite this, Vitaliti still had to meet the same requirements as those competing for the original QTXP, including verification from clinical testers at the University of California San Diego.

Photo of the CloudDX team on stage holding their prize (a giant cheque)

Ian Chalmers from Pivot (Far right) was messaged by Dylan Horvath of Cortex (Far left), to rush to get out of the bathroom and get on stage! Phew!

Cloud DX prevailed, and along with the Bold Epic Innovator title, earned a cheque for $100,000. But the good news doesn’t stop there!

What it all came down to

Neither one of the two teams vying for the top spot met all the requirements, so as per the competition rules, the prize money was reduced. Grand prizewinner Basil Leaf Technologies from the USA was awarded $2.5 million and the runner-up Dynamical Biomarkers from Taiwan received $1 million.

The XPRIZE Foundation, the Qualcomm Life Foundation and the Roddenberry Foundation decided the rest of the cash would go towards supporting the six finalists in bringing all of their Tricorders to market.

This comes with a suite of perks, including: publicity assistance (there’s a Morgan Spurlock, the Oscar-nominated director, documentary on the QTXP is in the pipeline); regulatory approval and a grant to help with fees associated with gaining FDA clearance; distribution partners with Kimberly-Clarke, Lowes and a Chinese collaborator; and, deployment at a teaching hospital in Mozambique.

A friendly future

The FDA already considers Vitaliti a connected home product. This means Kimberly-Clarke and Lowes can start distributing it. Vitaliti is on its way to getting the okay for its additional diagnostic functions, as well as approval from Health Canada, meaning the Canadian-born CloudDX is well positioned to start taking advantage of the additional $4.5 million in prize money. Now that’s some bold innovation indeed.

Pivot's Ian Chalmers with two members of the Cortex team and Star Trek Voyager actor Robert Picardo

From left to right: Joel Yatscoff (Cortex Design), Robert Picardo (The Doctor on Star Trek Voyager), Dylan Hovath (Cortex Design), and Pivot’s Ian Chalmers

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