Google Built A Star Trek-Style Communicator Badge Prototype But Quickly Abandoned It
Back in July, we brought you the news of a “real life” Star Trek Communicator that was patterned after the prop used in Star Trek: The Original Series. Produced by The Wand Company, the Communicator is little more than a glorified Bluetooth handset, but it damn sure does look good in the process.
It should come as no surprise that Google engineers are also big fans of Star Trek, and there is likely no bigger fan on campus than Google Chief Software Engineer Amit Singhal. Singhal describes himself as a Trekkie at heart; one that is even able to recite several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation line-for-line from memory. And given his penchant for all things Star Trek, he and his team even went so far as to develop a Bluetooth lapel pin that operated in the same vein as the Communicator used in TNG.
Like the Communicator used by Picard, Riker, and Data, Google’s prototype featured a built-in microphone and speaker, and was activated with a single tap. Once activated, Google’s prototype could communicate with Google services using just your voice without having to pull a smartphone out of your pocket. Questions posed to the device would be answered through the onboard speaker, or via a set of headphones.
“I always wanted that pin,” Singhal reminisced. “You just ask it anything and it works. That’s why we were like, ‘Let’s go prototype that and see how it feels.’”
Although Google engineers made a valiant effort to test out its version of the Communicator for an eventual public release, it was shelved to work on more pressing projects. Today, uber-techies can use a smartwatch to perform similar tasks, and we’re assuming that Singhal would prefer that it runs Android Wear.
Google’s love of Star Trek runs deeper than just communicator badges. In case you didn’t already know, Google Voice Search for Android is codenamed “Project Majel” after series creator Gene Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. Majel provided the voice for computer used on the Enterprise.