SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Want to map the ocean, reduce carbon emissions, or just deliver a battery that last longer than a day in your cellphone? The folks at the XPrize Foundation are working on a challenge for you.
Those are some of the challenges in the pipeline for the group that has launched four competitions and given away $25 million to date. "Our goal is to change what people think is possible and create billion-dollar industries that help the world," said Eileen Bartholomew, senior vice president of prize development for the foundation, in a keynote intended to inspire the crowd at DesignCon here.
The group hopes to launch a $10 million prize to create a battery 500 to 1,000% better than today's technology. It foresees a contest for who can keep a drone aloft for a record time as proof of their technology. That's just one of several grand challenges in the works, Bartholomew said.
The foundation's first competition was the $10 million Ansari XPrize for creating a vehicle that put three people 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. The Spaceship One that won the prize now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute right next to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the inspiration for XPrize founder Peter Diamandis. A next-generation version of the craft is already powering test flights into space for Virgin Galactic.
The Google Lunar XPrize aims to encourage some intrepid explorers to follow a similar path, putting on the moon a commercial rover than can travel at least 500 meters and send data back to Earth. Qualcomm has an outstanding XPrize for the design of a Star Trek tricorder-like handheld device that can diagnose 15 diseases and record five vital signs.
XPrize planners are also at work on a literacy challenge. The prize will likely focus on educating children over a period of three years, developing methods and materials that can scale to wide use and be freely available, Bartholomew said.
The challenges are meant to foster disruptive innovation, something needed more than ever "but it's getting harder to make it happen. You have to have an appetite for risk and failure -- and that's not celebrated," she said, asking the DesignCon audience to consider what grand challenges it would like to see attempted.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times