Peter Diamandis’ $10 million X Prize bounty sparked a boom in commercial space tourism. You won’t believe what he wants to do next.
It’s not easy to follow Grover from Sesame Street, especially when the throng of hungover Consumer Electronics Show attendees packed into the cavernous Palazzo Ballroom of the Venetian in Las Vegas endured product pitches from Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs and Nokia’s Stephen Elop even before the fuzzy purple Muppet’s demo of an augmented reality app for kids.
But this is Peter Diamandis, the fast-talking, hand-chopping impresario of the tech and space worlds. “The system is broken, access to health care is inconvenient, inefficient, bureaucratic—at worst, it’s even inaccurate,” he intones, striding on the stage in the standard tech mogul uniform—white shirt, blue jacket and jeans—as MRI-like images dance behind him on a gigantic screen. Stats roll off his tongue: an average 21-day wait for a doctor’s appointment; the 2-hour delay in the office; a coming shortage of 91,000 doctors. That’s just in America.
The crowd listens keenly, less for Diamandis’ subject matter—a deadly topic, even at an electronics show—or his matter-of-fact style than this track record and his cash. Diamandis is launching his latest payload: a $10 million X Prize, his seventh contest, to whoever develops the first medical tricorder—yes, that all-purpose handheld that was standard equipment among Star Trek medics. “The good news is we do have incredible technologies like wireless sensors, cloud computing, lab-on-a-chip technologies and digital imaging,” he says. “Our goal is to revolutionize health care, to provide it literally in the palm of your hand.”