Understanding the functioning of the brain is an ongoing Grand Challenge in life sciences. The objective of this XPRIZE is to develop a reliable, non-harmful interface between the digital world and the human cortex. These capabilities, at a minimum, will be beneficial to those with various neuromuscular diseases (ALS, MS, spinal cord injuries), but in its most impactful future would allow the co-evolution of humanity and the digital world.
Exponential acceleration of genomic sequencing and manipulation capabilities is quickly bringing us into an era where designer organisms unlike anything on Earth are fully possible. In addition to potential benefits for future human Mars exploration, such a high profile project could be an exciting catalyst for other efforts in synthetic biology.
Machine systems that can mimic the behavior of living plants by making nearly complete copies of themselves using local energy and materials can help address large-scale energy and environmental challenges. These self-replicating systems promise to revolutionize manufacturing and enable large-scale renewable energy production, global environmental remediation and ultimately the long-term exploration of space.
Earthquakes have cost us billions of dollars of damages and millions of lives. Given the massive global sensor networks now in place collecting data, and the near infinite computing power available, it may be possible to predict future earthquakes.
The goal of this prize is to create radical breakthroughs in wireless transmission technologies that will transform the way we collect and distribute energy, dramatically increase the availability of affordable carbon-free energy, and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Innovations in this area will expand the supply of clean energy, remove the need for land dedicated to traditional transmission lines, and positively impact global climate change.
Throughout the lifecycle of an article of apparel, opportunities exist to reduce the human or environmental health impacts of the process. Because the apparel industry is so large and touches every inch of the globe, addressing any of the major sources of negative human or environmental externalities would be a win for human and environmental health. First, most fibers and fabrics used in apparel manufacturing have some associated negative environmental impacts. For example, nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals and are non-biodegradable.
The Internet has made it possible to network a multitude of devices. However, challenges remain in finding affordable and convenient mechanisms to power small wireless electronic devices/sensors over long periods of time in remote locations (e.g. temperature sensors embedded in the walls of buildings). Fuel storage systems and traditional electrochemical batteries are limited by factors such as fuel supply, battery life, and weight.
The best batteries currently offer energy storage densities of 100s of Wh/kg, more than two orders of magnitude below that of liquid fuels. With breakthroughs in higher energy density, lightweight batteries will enable a revolution in electric aircraft, surface vehicles, and robotic applications.
Nearly one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. As a result, half of the world’s hospitalizations are due to drinking water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), just one of those infectious agents - the bacteria that causes diarrhea - accounts for 4.1 percent of the global disease burden, killing 1.8 million children a year. There is a radical high tech solution to solve all this.
In the U.S., the number of elderly has increased by a factor of 11 in the past century, while the population under 65 years old has only tripled. As a result, there are more and more elderly, but fewer younger adults available to care for them. Assistive technology is crucial for baby boomers who are searching for solutions to help them care for aging parents. With this XPRIZE, robots become accepted as standard members of households, eventually developing into indispensable helpers.