Between the low-hanging fruit of some Star Trek gadgets, like the common flip-open phones whose original design was based on the series’ devices, and the far-future-if-ever technology from the TV series like teleportation, lie some advances that we are living to see. Move over, voice-recognizing computers. Time to make way for the CommBadge.
A real-life version of the combadge or communications badge, the touch-to-talk communicating badge worn by Starfleet members, is now up on crowd-funding site Indiegogo, although it's not the first such attempt. The makers, presented only as The CommBadge Team, are looking for startup cash of $85,000 to bring this piece of Star Trekia a bit closer to the home planet. As of the latter part of this week, they had raised about a third of their goal.
Forget It, Ferengi
“Somewhere during the smartphone revolution we lost the use of our hands,” according to a promotional video for the device on Indiegogo that shows a harried guy shoulder-cradling a mobile phone while flipping through a notebook. The CommBadge Team said they created the Bluetooth device because they tended to avoid wearing Bluetooth headsets.
Designed for Android phones and for the iPhone, the CommBadge is a small, round, 1.5-inches wide speakerphone that, most likely for intellectual property reasons instead of technical or usability ones, is not shaped like the Starfleet insignia shown in the series, and the name sports an additional “m” that the original does not have. Like the actual -- that is, fictional -- device, this CommBadge attaches to the front of your clothing, has the requisite ability to turn on or take a command by a simple touch, and even has that confirming beep.
Thanks to Siri on the iPhone and Google Now on an Android phone, a user can communicate via voice commands through CommBadge to their smartphone. Vibration, sounds or LEDs indicate an incoming call, which you can pick up by tapping the device. A text-to-speech app allows the user to communicate via texts.
Lest you worry that any nearby Ferengi might overhear your secret mission communications, the CommBadgers say their device offers “clear sound waves” for the user, but the sound waves “that travel beyond a foot or so from the users ears are scrambled.”
The end result, the makers say, is that “someone near you can tell you are on a call, and not directly speaking to them, but they cannot discern the other end of the conversation.”
CommBadge is designed for personal or business use, the latter which apparently covers the Starfleet workforce. It will be offered in three models -- two Galactic Black versions, with and without a company identity badge holder, and a third in Cosmic White, designed for those who still have to swipe their physical company badge to get through a locked door, which it accommodates with a retractable badge reel.
Since the actual smartphone becomes fairly superfluous -- and futurists may envision a day when a wearable device such as the CommBadge dispenses with that piece of early 21st Century gear altogether -- the makers have included a wireless tether function that can alert the user if the accompanying smartphone is left behind.
If the makers raise their funding, you too can have a functioning piece of Star Trekness for expected pricing of $75 to $95, depending on whether you add the badge holder, with a product release expected as early as April.
Editor's Note: For all you trekkies out there -- CMSWire.com writer Barry Levine co-authored the POWER KLINGON audio book for Simon & Schuster, and, for TV Land, wrote/produced the Star Trek Web site/online game and directed/wrote two online Star Trek documentaries in HD (no longer online).