There'll be Tribbles, but no more troubles, laddie. And that's because Science Division LLC has created an app-enabled, lifelike but non-reproducing Tribble, complete with Klingon-seeking abilities. The Science Division Tribbles, which will ship in early 2020, are set to feature a trio of operating modes, At East, On Duty and Watchdog.
At Ease: Tribbles trill and vibrate when picked up and continue to trill even when you aren’t moving them. At Ease enables your Tribble to be truly alive, with varied trill and vibration patterns, in response to interaction and without any interaction. When left alone, your Tribble will continue to trill, but will do so less frequently to avoid irritating its human companion.
On Duty: Your Tribble will determine if it is in the hands of an ally or a Klingon each time that it moves, by either cooing or screaming accordingly.
Watchdog: You can leave your Tribble on top of an object for it to guard. If someone picks up that object, your Tribble will scream to alert you.
Once the Tribbles ship, customers will be able to download the free Section K-7 app to join a covert operation (Section K-7) tasked with seeking out disguised, anti-Federation Klingons. The app allows you to communicate with your Tribble or Tribbles. You can name them, assign them modes, change their volume, choose which ship they're assigned to, and even prank your friends by triggering your Tribble to scream at them. The app is not required for interaction with the Tribbles.
Beginning on July 24, 2019, the latest in Tribble technology will be available for pre-sale on Science Division LLC’s website, ScienceDiv.com. The company will debut the Tribbles at the Star Trek Las Vegas 2019 convention from July 31st to August 4th. Attendees will be able to interact in person with one of the fandom’s favorite furry characters, and to test out the app to see how it works. Special pre-sale incentives, including convention-exclusive offerings, are available for a limited time. Visit the company’s website for more details.
The app-enabled interactive Tribbles began as a living room science experiment, undertaken by Science Division LLC co-owners/co-founders Jay and Kayleigha Zawacki, who discuss their new product in the following Q&A:
StarTrek.com: What is so fascinating about Tribbles?
Jay Zawacki: The episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” is traditionally one of the first Star Trek episodes that you show to someone to get them into the series. The Tribble is one of the most iconic creatures.
Kayleigha Zawacki: It’s my dad’s fault. He started my sister and me off with what my family refers to as the ‘monsters and aliens’ episodes: “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “The Devil in the Dark,” “Arena,” “Obsession.” My sister and I had a re-creation of the Enterprise navigation console in our backyard. We'd run around screaming about sickly sweet smells and Gorn attacks. I desperately wanted a real life Tribble as a pet. I sewed some stuffing into a piece of faux fur left over from my bunny Halloween costume, and my first Tribble, Snowball, was born. She even had a birth certificate.
Why make make one?
K.Z.: It started out as a joke. Jay, Dad and I came up with this idea that it would be hilarious to make a Tribble that you could “set off” on your friends, as though they were Klingons. Jay and I started theorizing about actually building one. We would go for walks and just talk about our hypothetical Tribble, what its modes would be, and how you would control it.
J.Z.: It was a question of “Wouldn’t it be cool if...?” We started to look into how to use modular components to create a computer program that would respond to inputs from the user, and react to them in a way that a Tribble would. Our goal from the start was to try to make the most lifelike Tribble we could. We wanted to make it as true to the show as possible.
How did you create the first Tribble?
K.Z.: We researched microcontrollers and discovered that Arduino is open source — which means lots of tutorials. We ordered the electronic components that we thought we would need, and, when I wasn’t at work, I was sitting in my living room reading about C++ coding.
J.Z.: The Internet is a powerful tool. Neither Kayleigha nor I had any experience working with Arduinos. Both of us in our youth had tinkered with electronics kits, but we found ourselves overwhelmed with all of the parts needed to make this come alive. We even harvested vibration motors from an old game controller.
K.Z.: We worked our way through the process: get component A working, based on the code provided online. Get component B working the same way. Then combine A and B so that they worked together in a new way to accomplish whatever task we needed them to accomplish. It involved a ton of research — and a few tears.
J.Z.: As we got each component working, Kayleigha would add that into the Tribble code, and it would become more alive. By the end of the process, we had filled a card table with parts all over it, and wires connecting the components from one side of the table to the other.
K.Z.: We had to climb over that card table just to get to the couch. Our first Tribble was four square feet of wire clamps and speakers and breadboards, but a Tribble nonetheless.
J.Z.: The next step was to consolidate everything down into a reasonably sized prototype. Kayleigha made a Tribble body, and I laid out a prototyping shield with all of the components. I learned how to solder electronics together, and we had a working prototype.
What is special about these Tribbles?
J.Z.: They feel alive! Kayleigha and I know exactly how they are programed, what the different components are, and how the various modes work. That all gets forgotten the moment you turn one on and feel it, and hear it react to you. It is a magical experience to just have it on, softly talking to you while you are sitting at your desk doing work, or watching your favorite Star Trek episodes.
K.Z.: We needed our Tribbles to be alive. That was the project’s prime directive. After that, we just had fun with modes and app functionality. Our app allows you to change the Tribble’s mode, its volume, and its ship or space station assignment. And of course, you can set it off on your friends.
J.Z.: Everyone who has ever held one of our Tribbles has asked “When can I get my Tribble?” They don’t want to give it back. That is one of the most rewarding parts of this process — seeing the joy on someone’s face as they see our Tribble for the first time, and seeing how happy they are to interact with it. It is wonderful.
How did Science Division get started?
K.Z.: Starting a company was my worst nightmare not that long ago — so many unknowns. First, we looked for existing companies that already had licensing agreements with CBS. We caught the attention of one of those companies, and next thing we knew, we were sitting across the table from the licensing director and the marketing manager of CBS, showing them this Tribble that we made. It was crazy and surreal. We were so surprised when CBS agreed to grant us the license, even after the company that introduced us to CBS decided not to move forward with the project. That left us one choice: found Science Division LLC and do this thing ourselves.
What has it been like founding a company just to make Tribbles?
J.Z.: As a husband-and-wife company with no background in business, we have been learning a lot every step of the way. Science Division has morphed and grown along with our needs. Our goal has been to produce the best product that we can. We are focused on creating the definitive, most lifelike Tribble.
K.Z.: It has been an incredible, frustrating, and rewarding journey. We wouldn’t be here without the emotional, financial, and artistic support of our friends and family. My dad is actually Admiral Dunsel in our Tribble demo video. For me, this process has been about fighting for a childhood dream. When we hit an obstacle, we find a way to overcome it — kinda like on Star Trek.
J.Z.: It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks of running the business with just the two of us. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to take a step back and appreciate how far we have come, and how amazing it is that we have this opportunity.
Where can the Tribbles be purchased?
K.Z.: Our pre-sale period begins July 24, 2019 exclusively on our website, ScienceDiv.com. We have some great freebies for pre-sale participants. We are going to be demoing the Tribbles at Star Trek Las Vegas this year. Visitors to our vendor table will be able to interact with our prototypes, and test out the Section K-7 app. We also have some convention-only giveaways for fans who pre-order a Tribble before or during STLV. All the details are available at ScienceDiv.com. Tribble fans can also follow us on our social media pages: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.