The X PRIZE Foundation recently hosted a who’s who of international leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and celebrities at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco for an extraordinary evening of entertainment, intelligence and vision: A Radical Benefit for Humanity, Making the Impossible Possible, One Prize at a Time.
The exclusive charity event for 400 guests celebrated X Prize Foundation’s remarkable accomplishments as it unveils its vision for the future. The event raised an impressive $4.7 million dollars.
Guests included Larry Page and Lucy Southworth Page, Kristen Diamandis and Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation Peter Diamandis, Robin Williams, Chad Hurley and Kathy Hurley, Steve Chen and Jamie Chen, Ratan N. Tata, the Ansari Family, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Marissa Mayer, Zack Bogue, Bita Daryabari, Reza Malek, Ali Pincus and Mark Pincus, Ron Conway, Dr. Dean Ornish and Ann Ornish, Trevor Traina and Alexis Traina, Sloan Barnett, Jacqueline Sacks and David Sacks, Kay Walker and Sandy Walker, Carol Bonnie and Shelby Bonnie, Ray Kurzweil, Orkut Buyukkokten and Derek Holbrook, Will Wright and Kim Wright, among others.
Founded by Peter Diamandis, the X Prize awards millions of dollars to innovators competing to create tools that address global issues of energy and environment, ocean and space exploration, life science, development and education.
“Peter is very good at talking people into things. And he managed to talk me into helping him out, which is pretty much the only person who has managed to do that,” said Larry Page, who co-chaired the event with wife Lucy Southworth. ” But it’s been a really great thing, and I’m pleased with all of the progress that’s been made with the X Prize. Lucy and I are really pleased to be co-chairs.”
Larry Page said that the concept of using a prize to encourage achievements in science and technology is something that he has believed in for a long time, and pointed out that Paul MacCready, the aeronautical engineer and inventor, was spurred on tremendously by his involvement in prizes.
“One of my heroes was Paul MacCready, he was an amazing guy,” he said. The plane that MacCready built to win the Kremer Prize cost more than the prize itself, but according to Page, “it started the whole path for his life where he built amazing airplanes. There was a solar powered airplane that went to 100,000 feet. And he did things that other people would think were completely impossible.”
“I found that as an engineer he was very, very inspiring. And in thinking about that… why aren’t there more of these prizes,” he said. “And that’s why I got involved, and it’s been a great thing to see.”
There are currently three active X Prize competitions, and several in development. The Archon Genomics X Prize has a $10 million purse (sponsored by Dr. Stewart Blusson and Marilyn Blusson), with the challenge of ushering in a “new era of preventive, personalized medicine.” To win, you must be able to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days for under $10,000 each.
The Google Lunar X Prize has a $30 million purse (sponsored by Google), with $20 million to be awarded the first team to land a robot on the Moon, rove 500 meters, and return video and images to the Earth. The second team to do so will get $5 million, and the remaining $5 million will be awarded in bonus prizes.
The Progressive Automotive X Prize is a $10 million purse (sponsored by Progressive Insurance, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Cisco, Ray Sidney, Jeff Shames and the Elbaz Family.) The $10 million in prizes will be awarded to the teams that win a rigorous, multi-stage competition for clean, production-capable, and super efficient vehicles that exceed 100 MPG.
As an example of the inspirational nature of the prize, as Larry Page discussed, highschool students in Goleta, California recently won a national contest funded by the U.S. Department of Energy for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE where they had to design an eco-friendly dashboard that provides feedback to encourage fuel-efficient driving.
In a decade, will one of those students be sending a rover to Mars, or inventing the next generation of electric car? For the people behind the X Prize, that’s just the beginning.
For more information about the X Prize, please visit www.xprize.org