The Onyx is the closest thing we have to a Star Trek Communicator

Onyx in hand
Credit: OnBeep

Last April I talked about Scio a personal spectroscope that I half-jokingly referred to as a Star Trek tricorder. I'm still waiting to get my hands on one; the worst part of Kickstarter projects is waiting for a product to be finished.

Having a tricorder is awesome but once you've scanned that alien artifact you're going to want to report back to the captain with whatever information you've uncovered. To do that you need a communicator, right?

Enter Onyx, a $99 communicator that you can pre-order now (it should start shipping in December). You clip Onyx onto your shirt and tap it to communicate with the bridge...I mean with your friends.

Enough Star Trek humor, how does it really work? It pairs with a cellphone but works over both cellular and wifi connections. You set up a group of friends to talk to and from there on out Onyx is pretty much a walkie-talkie. You tap the button and start talking and everyone in your group hears what you're saying.

So it's kind of a gimmick I'll admit, but in the right circumstances it could be pretty fun. I have plenty of friends that spend evenings on TeamSpeak chatting away while they play video games. You could do the same thing with Onyx only without being tied to a computer. You could keep on chatting with friends while you're all out at different pubs.

For more serious uses, I can imagine a team running a convention or something keeping in touch with these things. On the other hand I feel like there must be some kind of app that offers the same functionality on your phone without spending $100, though there's no denying the convenience of wearing something you can just tap to talk through.

I'm really conflicted on this one. Silly gadget or useful tool? I'm just not sure. I also think a lot depends on the quality of the microphone and speaker in it. It might lead to awkward situations if you use it in a crowded space. When your friend decides to over share via Onyx will everyone around you hear him? On the other hand, you don't want to have to strain to hear what your friend is saying.

As mentioned, one Onyx is $99 but you can buy a pair for $195. I'm pretty sure convincing my friends to spend $100 so we can chat via a puck on our chests is going to be a tough sell, so I'll probably give Onyx a pass for now. I think they need to get the price down, or go after specialty markets with it. Alternatively offer an app that can handle Onyx communications without the hardware, so friends without the device don't get left out.

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