onbeep onyx
November 6, 2014

Trekkies Rejoice: “Star Trek” Communicators Are Finally Here

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Much like old-school Star Trek communicators are often credited for being the inspiration of the smartphone, the devices used by Captain Picard and his crew on Star Trek: The Next Generation have apparently given rise to a new wearable communication gadget developed by San Francisco startup OnBeep.

The device is known as Onyx ($99), and links up to a smartphone via Bluetooth, according to Dan Seifert of The Verge. At about 2.5 inches in diameter, this hockey puck-shaped device can clip to a bag or an article of clothing, and works anywhere with Wi-Fi or cellular data service.

Featuring a button in the middle to start conversation, the Onyx also has a volume rocker, a power switch and a mute function. The conversation button is surrounded by an LED ring that changes color based on your availability--blue for available, green for talking and yellow for muted. And, as SlashGear’s Chris Burns noted, it can connect to an Android or iOS app to track other Onyx owners and launch discussions that can be heard by all members of a group.

Seifert, who was able to give the device a test-drive, said it was similar to using a walkie-talkie, except without range limits, static and the occasional interference experienced with those old-school devices. He noted that the audio quality was “quite good,” that is used a low latency codec to minimize bandwidth, and that it was lightweight enough to be “clipped to a belt or shirt pocket” without being uncomfortable of impeding movement--something the company spent months perfecting.

Despite the similarities to the Star Trek communicator, OnBeep CEO Jesse Robbins said that replicating that iconic device was not the company’s goal. Robbins, who is a firefighter by trade, said that the company wanted to come up with a way to replicate the easy-to-use communication devices used by EMTs and first responders and get them in the hands of business owners communicating with the home office or families communicating at theme parks.

Trekkies don't fret, though. Robbins did note that the final design of the gadget was at least inspired by the sci-fi series. Thus, perhaps we'll see a deal with CBS soon, and then OnBeep can truly challenge the Klingons of the communication world for interstellar domination.


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