The World’s First Star Trek Replicator Was Designed For The Blind

Transporters aside, the replicators featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation were one of the most tantalising pieces of future technology one could imagine — whatever you asked the computer for magically appeared before your eyes. And it looks like Yahoo has created a similar machine for students at a school for the visually impaired in Japan.

The cloud-shaped contraption lets anyone ask Yahoo’s search engine a query, but instead of returning a list of websites to visit, the custom software hunts for 3D models which are then immediately printed out. In a way it bridges the visual and physical worlds, providing visually impaired users with a tactile 3D response to their search.

And what if a model for a given query isn’t immediately found? In that case Yahoo Japan actually runs ads asking the website’s users to design or submit the missing 3D model. Check out the video below to see how the creation came together. Though not shown, we’re assuming that at one step in the process someone switched on the ‘safe search’ option. [Yahoo Japan via Notcot]