Star Trek: The Next Generation is perhaps the most acclaimed collection of Classic Trek. While The Original Series and its movies brought sci-fi to the mainstream, The Next Generation is cited as making Trek cool. From its sleek new outfits to the redesign of the Star Trek communicator and phasers, everything was different.
Decades on, The Next Generation is still revered as peak sci-fi, and ideas from the show are constantly being turned into tangible technology. For example, scientists are constantly attempting to recreate the holodeck and, in recent times, AI-powered lifelike android companions.
Apple wants to make the Star Trek communicator badge
Via Apple Insider, a new patent from, well, Apple reveals a potential new product designed after The Next Generation’s iconic communicator badge. While the patent doesn't show images of a gold Starfleet insignia, the technology is eerily similar to the classic Trek gadget.
Unenthusiastically dubbed the “Wearable Device with Directional Audio” the device is designed to be “worn on clothing of the user”. The WDDA — much easier — is designed to give users individualised audio without earphones.
"A wearable device can provide an audio module that is operable to provide audio output from a distance away from the ears of the user,” the patent reads. “For example, the wearable device can be worn on clothing of the user and direct audio waves to the ears of the user."
Apple’s patents explain that the WDDA will attempt to push audio in the direction of users. However, the device is also said to be able to do this without leaking audio to other people. (Did the Star Trek Communicator Badge so that in the show? If so, how?)
The patent reads:
“Such audio waves can be focused by a parametric array of speakers that limit audibility by others. Thus, the privacy of the audio directed to the user can be maintained without requiring the user to wear audio headsets on, over, or in the ears of the user."
Do we need these?
The Apple Wearable Device with Directional Audio is designed to replace headphones and earphones for communication. Obviously not designed for music, the technology is being built with the express purpose of talking to other people.
However, this technology already exists in a hands-free capacity. Smartwatches — even the ones made by Apple — allow you to talk through them both ways. Additionally, Apple Watches also feature a Walkie Talkie feature that allows users to chat only through watches.
However, there are accessibility reasons for the WDDA. For example, paralysed people who can't move their limbs but can still talk could possibly use the device. But outside of that, the actual use cases seem pretty slim.