A 'Star Trek: TNG'-style communicator for your shirt

Taking its cues from next-gen "Star Trek," this wearable Bluetooth speakerphone lets you make and take calls and issue voice commands (hello, Siri!) with just one tap.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
The CommBadge.
The CommBadge. Charles Krimstock

Joke all you want, but Siri is pretty cool. And Google Search? Even cooler. Just one problem: These voice-powered assistants require you to take your phone out of your pocket, purse, briefcase, or whatever. You can't just talk to the air and have your commands recognized.

What you need is one of those "Star Trek: The Next Generation"-style communicators, the kind Captain Jean-Luc Picard wore on his chest. One little tap and he's all, "Commander Data, meet me in Engineering."

Indiegogo project CommBadge may not look Starfleet-issue, but it accomplishes much the same thing as those shiny communicators. It's a small, round, Bluetooth-powered speakerphone you can clip to your shirt, then press whenever you want to make or take a call or issue a voice command.

This is perhaps better demonstrated than explained, so check out the CommBadge promo video, then meet me below for some thoughts.

So in addition to basic speakerphone functions, the CommBadge offers a wireless tether (the idea being to keep you from getting separated from your phone), customizable notifications (though flashing lights might be hard to see when they're below eye level and facing away from you), and all the various voice commands you can issue to your Android or iOS phone. (In theory, it would also be great for iPhone users who've jailbroken their handsets to use Google Voice Search instead of Siri.)

This reminds me a lot of the ZOMM Wireless Leash, an existing product that also incorporates a speakerphone, a wireless tether, and flashing-light/vibration features. However, that gizmo is designed to ride shotgun on your keychain, not on your shirt. The idea here is to make hands-free phone options more readily accessible.

The project has about a month left to raise the $100,000 needed to get the CommBadge into production. As of this writing, it's only about 10 percent of the way there. For as little as $75, you can get a "CommBadge Classic" (which lacks the optional ID-badge holder, a potentially nice feature for office drones). Assuming the developers meet their goal, product fulfillment should begin in February 2013. The CommBadge will be available in black, white, and chrome, and is expected to retail for around $95.

That strikes me as a little steep for what is essentially a small, clip-on Bluetooth speaker. But you tell me: Is this the kind of product you'd be apt to wear? If so, are you willing to pony up at least $75 to -- sorry -- make it so?