Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry invented the medical tricorder in the late 1960s but Mike Lazaridis is just getting around to producing them now. The BlackBerry creator and Research in Motion co-founder isn’t exactly making them in his basement (though with all that smartphone money, his basement could actually be a fully functioning research lab), instead, he’s financed a $100 million quantum technology fund with the end goal of making the Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy’s indispensable medical tricorder something you’ll see in your own doctor’s office.
The handy Star Trek device used by McCoy was capable of diagnosing disease and collecting medical data from patients. The Lazaridis-funded device would be similar: “The medical tricorder would be astounding,” he claims, “the whole idea of blood tests, MRIs—imagine if you could do that with a single device. That may be possible and possible only because of the sensitivity, selectivity and resolution we can get from quantum sensors made with these quantum breakthroughs.” For all of us luddites who may be unfamiliar with the basics of quantum technology, Lazaridis explains: “You’re using fundamental physics to measure things and you’re doing it in a way that is so sensitive that you don’t need to actually have physical contact,” he says. “That opens up a whole new capability, whole new way of treating patients.”
With some spare time on his hands now that he’s no longer responsible for the CEO duties at RIM, Lazaridis and Doug Fregin have formed Quantum Valley Investments which will reportedly focus on funding research pertaining to non-invasive medical technology. “What we’re excited about is these little gems coming out,” he says. “They’re very different and this is an independent venture. [Quantum technology is] so unique in how it works, it has far more reaching consequences than just the smartphone industry.” The pair hope to produce usable, real world results by 2015 or 2016. No word on when your BlackBerry will be able to beam you to the Bahamas but hopefully Lazaridis has his best team working on that, too.