In 1919, New York entrepreneur Raymond Orteig offered a US$25,000 prize to the first pilot to fly non-stop between New York and Paris. The Orteig Prize, which would be worth US$360,000 today, is credited with spurring huge advances in aviation before it was finally won in 1927 by a cocky daredevil named Charles Lindbergh.
In 1996, when NASA’s space-exploration efforts were stalling, reading about Lindbergh inspired U.S. aerospace entrepreneur Peter Diamandis to launch the XPrize: a US$10-million award to the first team to fly a three-passenger vehicle 100 kilometres into space, twice, within two weeks. After SpaceShipOne won the competition, Diamandis’s XPrize Foundation began offering multiple challenges, catalyzing innovation in fields ranging from tricorders (Star Trek-inspired medical scanners) to adult literacy and oil-spill cleanups.
Even with seven XPrize contests now on the go, few people noticed last December when the IBM Watson XPrize for Artificial Intelligence issued its first ranking of the 150 teams competing for US$5 million in prize money. But as the world rockets warily into the AI economy, Canadians can take pride that three of the Top 10 teams are from Quebec.Read More