If you’ve ever wanted to be able to slap at a small bit of plastic pinned to your shirt, state someone’s name and be able to bark out orders to them in a style similar to TV’s Jean Luc Picard, well, now you can:
The badge contains two chips, one a digital signal processor chip from Texas Instruments, the other a fairly unremarkable wi-fi radio not terribly dissimilar from those found in any Wi-Fi networking card used in a laptop PC. The TI chip handles all the voice processing and the wi-fi radio transmits them up to a computer network.
That’s where the real work takes place. Hitting the badge button and saying a name triggers a powerful server-based application that matches the name spoken with a database entry. It then locates that person on the network, activates their badges and starts the conversation, which takes place using Voice-Over-Internet Protocol or VOIP—meaning the voices are converted to bits and transmitted over a computer network.
Turns out this technology has been available for around a year now from the folks at Vocera Communications and they have already 60 customers who whap at their chests and bark orders to people who aren’t in the same room already, most of which consist mainly of hospitals. No word on what the system would cost you if you wanted to set one up in your house, but the fact that it’s possible will probably be enough to fuel happy dreams for many Star Trek fans.