As ‘Star Trek’ approaches its fiftieth anniversary this week, you’re going to be hearing about the show’s impact, from the personal to the cultural. But it can be easy to forget that the show has also had a technological impact as well. Try to argue, for example, that the person who designed the first flip phone wasn’t a ‘Star Trek’ fan, and you’ll quickly find yourself facing an uphill battle.
Now it looks as though we may once again be on the verge of life imitating ‘Star Trek,’ with the revelation (via the Roddenberry Twitter account) that Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s voice was recorded phonetically before her passing in 2008. Barrett’s contributions to ‘Star Trek’ over the years are too numerous to list here, but while her most visible role was that of Nurse Chapel on the original series, she also provided the voice of the ship’s computer, and thus was a constant presence through all six shows as well as several films.
As the Roddenbery tweet is quick to point out, the most obvious application of this voice data is for personal assistant software such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. But as exciting as it is, that’s not all. The tweet also hints at the possibility of Barrett posthumously providing the voice of the computer on the upcoming ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’ While ‘Discovery’ showrunner Bryan Fuller has yet to comment on the possibility, it would be hard to imagine a reason for him to pass on the opportunity. Indeed, while Barrett is most identified with the less mechanical computer voice from ‘The Next Generation,’ she nonetheless provided the voice for the original series computer. So even continuity-obsessive folks such as myself should find little to complain about if Fuller does go that route.
Majel’s voice is recorded phonetically, &we’re working to get her voice for things such as Siri, maybe voice of the computer on #STDiscovery
— RODDENBERRY (@roddenberry) September 4, 2016
Be sure to check in with ScienceFiction.com later this week for all our coverage of the fiftieth anniversary of ‘Star Trek,’ and stay tuned in the coming months as we approach the January 2017 premiere of ‘Star Trek: Discovery!’