Google secretly invented a Star Trek-style communicator badge

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek 

Star Trek has long inspired technology companies with its innovative visions of the future, but Google has taken it one step further and created a fully-working protoype of the programme’s famous lapel pin communicators.

The pin was used by Captain Picard and his crew to communicate, and Google kept the basic principles by building in a microphone and Bluetooth connectivity to sync with a smartphone, the company’s senior vice president and software engineer Amit Singhal told Time magazine.

According to Singhal, the pin was activated with a light tap to ready it for voice commands, which it could relay through its microphone or linked Bluetooth-enabled headphones.

“I always wanted that pin,” he added. “You just ask it anything and it works. That’s why we were like, ‘Let’s go prototype that and see how it feels.’”

Amit Singhal, pictured with his Google-made Star Trek pinAmit Singhal, pictured with his Google-made Star Trek pin  Photo: Google

Sadly the pin is just that – a prototype. The pin has never made it beyond the testing phase, but Singhal’s love for Star Trek is well documented.

In fact, Google’s vocal-input recognition software was originally dubbed Majel after Star Trek’s voice computer, and the search engine can also conduct searches in Klingon.

In 2012 he and his team worked on a computer interface which could supply answers to users without requiring them to dig their phones out of their pockets or tap away at a keyboard, inspired by the series’ “ubiquitous computing” concept, where gadgets woven into users’ daily lives seamlessly respond to questions.

“Why should someone stop their conversation because they’re missing a tiny piece of information that you need to take that conversation further?” Singhal said at the time. “You have to pull out your phone. You have to unlock the phone. You have to type. Already you have lost valuable seconds and the conversation has become unnatural and awkward.

“I would make a bold prediction that in the next three to five years you will have a Star Trek assistant, with a lot more capability than your phone has now. We have built baby steps of this already.”

He wasn’t far off – digital assistants like Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana‘s naturalised speech recognition capabilities have rapidly improved in just a few short years, and the rise of the Internet of Things means that speaking to our everyday home appliances is no longer just the stuff of science fiction.

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