Cortex Design founder Dylan Horvath (far left) with Team CLOUD DX on-stage at the 2017 XPRIZE Awards in Hollywood, California.

No rules in the game of innovation: How we won a prize they told us we’d already lost

Ashley Hu
Ashley Hu May 11, 2017 • 0 min read

If the tech world was a baseball game, the rules of it would change every time a new player stepped onto the field, a seasoned pitcher unveiled a new pitch, or a spectator entered the stadium. That’s basically how we won $100,000 + $5.4 million in R&D for a prize we’d already been disqualified for. Here’s how it happened.

On the evening of April 12th, Hollywood, California hosted the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Awards. The global competition is designed to stimulate new diagnostic technologies that will improve access to healthcare in the U.S. and beyond — technologies that are drastically needed both at home and abroad. Our client and partner Cloud DX entered the race in 2012 to build a Tricorder, a portable device that can be used to self-diagnose medical conditions.

Our role: Cortex takes design lead

Mockups for the VITALITI Health Monitoring System, the world’s most advanced diagnostics tool, designed to revolutionize healthcare.

Cloud DX had proposed a groundbreaking system of technologies for the XPRIZE competition — one that could monitor all five vital signs and detect chronic health conditions like diabetes, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Cortex created the vision for Cloud DX to bring these technologies together into a single system.

The device had to be passive and non-intrusive, monitoring blood pressure, ECG, oxygen level, core body temperature and respiration in a simple, seamless and completely user-friendly way. The device needed to continuously monitor these five vital signs and log that data to a cloud server, enabling it to diagnose 15 chronic health conditions without needing a doctor’s oversight.

They partnered with Cortex and we mapped out a wearable device by studying the contact points of the body that could collect FDA-approved vital sign metrics. Over a 10-month sprint — an intensive collaboration built on trust, risk-taking, and energetic innovation — we sculpted something beautiful and friendly that could be worn under your clothing, quietly sending critical information to an expert system on your smartphone.

How VITALITI fared

Designed by Cortex Design and CLOUD DX to revolutionize healthcare, the VITALITI Health Monitoring System is the world’s most advanced diagnostics tool.

Clearly, the design and its corresponding technology made a splash. Over 300 teams from around the world applied to XPRIZE, but by 2014, the competition was down to 10 groups, including Team Cloud DX. Throughout 2015 finalists dropped out, teams merged and by the summer of 2016, there were only six finalists left, including Cloud DX.

And then, a setback: Due primarily to delays in receiving approval to test on humans from Health Canada (despite heroic efforts!) Cloud DX was disqualified from the XPRIZE money round. Three other teams fell to the same fate, leaving only two remaining finalists for the $9 million prize.

And then, the rules changed: Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE recognized that an entry might offer such advanced technology that they couldn’t technically complete the competition, and that such an entry deserved recognition.They call this new prize the Bold Epic Innovator Award.

On April 12, 2017, Cloud DX in partnership with Cortex were honoured to receive this award in recognition of the substantive technology and design impact of the VITALITI Tricorder. Cortex was on stage with Cloud DX to accept the $100,000 prize, a testament to the outstanding achievement of our work with this technology.

$5.4 million shared fund for research and development

Wait, wait, wait — there’s more: From XPRIZE’s annual $10 million competition fund, this year’s grand-prize winner won $2.5 million, and the runner-up won $1 million. We won $100,000 — so, what happened to the rest of the money? Good news: they’re spending it on us.

For the first time ever, The XPRIZE Foundation, the Qualcomm Life Foundation and the Roddenberry Foundation have decided to award $5.4 million of prize money to the six finalist teams via a shared fund for research and development. We will also be the subject of a feature-length documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me. The film will focus on the finalist teams from XPRIZE, chronicling the journey to conceptualizing, designing and fabricating our Tricorders.

More, being the first Bold Epic Innovator recipient means a three-year seat at the XPRIZE Institute. Cloud DX will also be recognized on stage at the annual Visioneers summit, which brings together hundreds of luminaries from XPRIZE to celebrate impactful advances in biomedical design technology, and to nominate the next XPRIZE grand challenges.

And to top it all off, we recently learned that our VITALITI Tricorders are passing the consumer testing phase with flying colours.

© 2019 Cortex Design Inc.