Ever want a communicator that works like the uniform badges from Star Trek? Here it is. Just try to resist the urge to say, “Beam me up.”
Onyx is a wearable communicator, slightly smaller than a hockey puck, that helps teams quickly connect with the press of a button. Users pair the device with their iPhone or Android handset using Bluetooth. After that, they can connect to a group of their Onyx-using friends and colleagues, and start a conversation with the group by pressing down on the device’s center button.
It’s the product of OnBeep, a San Francisco-based startup led by Chef co-founder and former Amazon Availability Program Manager Jesse Robbins. Robbins, along with his co-founders Roger Wood and Greg Albrecht, set out to build the device as a way to provide easy, real-time communication with potentially far-flung teammates.
The app comes with a few nifty features designed to help teams connect while they’re out and about. Users can see who has their device switched on, as well as where those people are, if they have opted into geolocation through the app.
Onyx’s battery lasts for about 12 hours with what Robbins calls “active” use, though actual battery life is dependent on how much someone uses the device. People who use their Onyx less frequently will get more life out of a single charge.
“It’s designed to be recharged around the same time you re-charge your phone, and it extends, interestingly, the battery life of your phone, because you’re not looking at the screen,” Robbins said.
Users who don’t want their Onyx squawking while they’re out and about can toggle on a mute switch on the side of the device. That will keep them from transmitting anything unintentionally, and change their status inside the OnBeep app so that people in their group will know whether they’re available or not.
In addition, the device also has a headphone jack, so that people can keep their conversations to themselves, and better hear what’s going on in a noisy situation. The jack is built to accept headphones with a built-in mic like those bundled with the iPhone, so users can even clip Onyx onto a belt if they want to keep the device out of sight.
OnBeep’s vision of an on-demand communicator has drawn the interest of plenty of investors, too: it closed a $6.25 million Series A funding round earlier this year led by Rich Levandov of Avalon Ventures.
A single Onyx costs $99, and the company also sells a bundle of two for $195. Groups interested in buying in bulk won’t be able to land volume discounts at the moment, but Robbins said the company is continuing to evaluate its options in that regard. The devices are available for pre-order now, and will be shipped later this year.