Despite the show’s finale airing almost 20 years ag,o the technology in Star Trek: Voyager (and even TNG) still looks convincingly futuristic, and we’d happily trade our folding smartphones like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 or the Surface Duo 2 for this incredible recreation of one of Voyager’s tricorders.
Producing a sci-fi TV series based on one of the most beloved franchises of all time isn’t cheap. You not only have to build standing sets recreating the interior of a giant starship, there’s also alien worlds to construct, loads of special effects, and mountains of futuristic props for the cast to interact with. According to Hackaday, For Star Trek: Voyager, the second follow-up to the wildly successful Star Trek: The Next Generation, there were plans to introduce an updated design for the ubiquitous tricorder—a futuristic PDA that can do almost anything a script requires of it—but concept sketches were replaced with hand-me-down props from TNG to keep costs down.
At least one Star Trek: Voyager fan felt that was a great injustice, but instead of voicing their concerns during a Q&A session at a Star Trek convention, they set out to build the Voyager Tricorder, as they call it, in real life. The first version that YouTuber Mangy_Dog (a UI designer who’s also skilled at electronics) took over a year to build was impressively capable and looked straight out of the 24th century. But when a friend commissioned a replica of the tricorder for themselves, Mangy_Dog took the opportunity to thoroughly update the prop inside and out, and while it took several years to complete, the results look even better than anything Hollywood has ever delivered.
Mangy_Dog has delved into the design and engineering process behind the Voyager Tricord V2 build in three videos. The first video goes into some of the challenges of the hardware itself, including custom PCBs and problems with sourcing high-quality displays, while the second video delves into the custom user interface and animations created for the prop, which are all generated and rendered on the fly, instead of just being pre-rendered videos played back on queue. The third video goes much deeper into the internal hardware including the custom PCB created for the project and the extensive code that powers it.
In addition to LCD displays displaying what appear to be Starfleet standard user interfaces, the Voyager Tricorder V2 includes countless touch-sensitive buttons used to switch modes or activate secret features after a long press. There’s also blinking, flashing, and pulsing LEDs all over the device, making it look like the tricorder is actually scanning and interacting with its environment, when in reality the only thing this replica tricorder can actually do is make other Star Trek fans incredibly envious.
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