Onyx Makes ‘Star Trek’ Style Communication Reality

Onyx, a device just released from San Francisco tech start-up OnBeep, is a wearable voice communication device that allows for instant voice communication with other Onyx users with the push of a button. The Onyx device retails for $99, or $195 for a pair, and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology, making communication possible anywhere in the world where data connections are available.

The release of Onyx follows MIT/Harvard’s creation of a science-real Star Wars style lightsaber and the Kickstarter campaign to fund production of working Back to the Future-style hoverboards as the latest in popular sci-fi technology made reality in recent months.

CNET reports that Onyx inventor and OnBeep CEO and co-founder Jesse Robbins while working as a firefighter in Seattle and later for online giant Amazon helping to develop and protect their cloud-based technology citing the need for individuals to be able to communicate directly with a team of contacts without having to stop what you’re doing to access an app.

“During an incident, an emergency responder needs to be able to communicate with the rest of the team without losing focus. The last thing you want is to have your attention pulled away from the scene in an emergency. To make that possible, we rely on two-way radios. They’re bulky, ungainly and cumbersome, but they’re reliable — and that’s what matters when you’re working in life-or-death situations.”

While the necessity of an item like the Onyx outside of a professional team situation can be debated, Robbins told CNN Money that he envisions countless ways the Onyx can be used, from spouses in the supermarket to friends on ski trips. Robbins cited to Forbes the popularity of shuttered cell provider Nextel’s “push-to-talk” walkie talkie feature that disappeared following the company’s sale to Sprint as proof of concept that the Onyx can succeed.

“I was thinking, ‘surely someone will figure it out,’ and no one did.”

Onyx’s parent company, OnBeep, was incorporated in April 2013, and announced a $6.25 million first-round start-up investment from Avalon Ventures in August 2014. OnBeep plans to develop a premium subscription component to the Onyx that will offer advanced features such as security playback and audio file saving. For its initial roll out, Onyx isn’t available outside of U.S. markets, but already has eyes on expanding, particularly into Asia where subscriber rates for direct-communication apps number in the hundreds of millions.