NASA looking for Star Trek-like Tricorder to track astronaut health

NASA looking for information about a device that could detect health-related biomarkers of astronauts in space.

NASA Ames Research Center is exploring the technology requirements to develop what it calls a state-of-the-art device that could detect health-related biomarkers of astronauts in space.

The agency has issued a Request for Information (RFI), seeking detailed information regarding compact technologies currently available that can analyze health-related biomarkers in breath, saliva, [skin], blood, and urine using a single compact device.  Such a device sound like the legendary fictional medical Tricorder of Star Trek fame.

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From NASA: "The specific biomarkers to be detected are currently under evaluation by NASA, but include abroad range of molecules and cells associated with health status, impact of the space environment on individual astronauts, and prediction of future health events. Analyses and analytes of interest include cell profiles, proteins and peptides, and small organic molecules."

NASA said of existing technology, it wants to know: Which sample types currently are analyzable using the instrument?  Which biomarkers are currently analyzable using this instrument?  What is the weight, dimensions and power requirements of the device?

NASA said is seeking responses regarding fully functioning devices (full integrated systems) that are currently available, developed to at least the advanced prototype stage. The space agency said it isn't looking for information about conceptual designs or individual component technologies that have not yet been integrated into a single device.

The space agency may want to look into an ongoing X Prize Foundation challenge that is offering a $10 million prize for the company that can build a mobile platform that can accurately diagnoses 15 diseases from 30 consumers in three days.

The idea is to use artificial intelligence and wireless sensing to make medical diagnoses independent of a physician or healthcare provider, X Prize stated. Metrics for health the device will need to measure could include such elements as blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. Ultimately, this tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurement of health and give consumers a way to see the state of their health from a mobile device, the group said.

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A few of the other requirement for competitors, from the X Prize website on the Tricorder Challenge include:  "Given that each team will take its own approach to design and functionality, the device's physical appearance and functionality may vary immensely from team to team. Indeed, the only stated limit on form is that the mass of its components together must be no greater than five pounds. But because an important part of the qualifying round will be evaluating consumer experience in using it, the limitations set by this competition will force teams to make choices. Teams will have to consider tradeoffs amongst weight, functionality, power requirements, battery life, screen resolution, AI engine location, diagnosis capability, end consumer cost, and so on."

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