Google’s Amit Singhal: “The destiny of search is to become the Star Trek computer.”
Your lapel pin should be this smart.
Inspired by the sci-fi ingenuity of Star Trek, engineers at Google have worked up a one-of-a-kind prototype wearable device to test out the possibilities of a real-life communicator. It doesn’t connect to any starships, though. Instead, it’s meant to suggest new ways to tap into the vast knowledge banks of Google search.
The device, about the diameter of a casino chip but somewhat thicker, was demonstrated to Time by Google senior vice president Amit Singh, who wore itchest-high on his sweater. It’s designed to be activated with a tap, and an embedded microphone would pick up your spoken query to relay via Bluetooth to a nearby smartphone and from there on to Google. The answer could come back through speakers or headphones.
“I always wanted that pin,” Singhal told Time, referring to the more advanced Star Trek communicator. “You just ask it anything and it works. That’s why we were like, ‘Let’s go prototype that and see how it feels.'”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The Mountain View, California-based tech titan has a penchant for fanciful, often futuristic tech, from Wi-Fi balloons to self-driving cars. In the wearables realm, it has experimented with Google Glass headsets, which also listened when wearers spoke and made use of wireless technology to provide access to Google search results.
As for wearable tech you can actually buy today, Google’s Android Wear software powers a range of smartwatches from companies including LG, Motorola and Tag Heuer.
Singhal is a long-time Star Trek fan who sees his work at Google as a way to turn science fiction into reality, as he noted three years ago in dedicating a Google Doodle that honored the anniversary of the first-ever Star Trek broadcast. “The destiny of search,” he wrote at the time, “is to become the Star Trek computer, a perfect assistant by my side whenever I need it.”
The tech in the Star Trek-like prototype, which remains in testing, apparently isn’t all that far removed from today’s average Bluetooth headset, but it does give Google a way to play around with how we might continue to use its search tools in the future.
As rivals from Apple to Amazon and Microsoft continue their own far-sighted advances, it’ll need to find an answer.