REX's David Garcia Engages with a Raspberry Pi, Google Assistant Powered Star Trek Captain's Chair

Inspired by Captain Kirk's famous seat, the voice-activated chair sits pride of place in REX's Redwood City office.

What do you get if you combine a love for classic science fiction with a Raspberry Pi, the Google Assistant platform, and a surprisingly large amount of plywood? If you're David Garcia, the answer is a voice-activated chair modelled after Captain Kirk's very own.

"After evaluating a ton of options we thought, let’s try to put Google Assistant in something, like a piece of furniture. A chair came to mind, but then we had a better idea," writes REX Homes' CTO David Garcia. "What if we were to integrate Google Assistant into a specific chair, a captain’s chair. Kirk’s chair?"

The first hurdle: the physical chair itself. "Searching around online, I found a bunch of pictures, but not much in the way of plans or sizes," Garcia explains. "Eventually I did find some plans online. But they were very focused on making a cradle for a chair rather than a full chair. This gave me the basic plans to know some sizes, and I was able to alter the plans as I went along to make a full chair, and one which will be able to swivel and move."

Constructed from plywood, aided by what Garcia describes as "some magic of glue and clamps," the base is designed to support the full weight of both a person and the chair — plus a swivel mechanism, purchased off-the-shelf and stripped of its usual castors. The upholstery is cushion foam plus stapled vinyl fabric — which, after painting the wood, left only the electronics.

"The first was the switches on the top. It turned out finding switches was surprisingly hard. I found some, and got some Enamel paints, and made the different colors used," notes Garcia. "For the custom plastic components, I used a bunch of 3d prints to make the lights, and the buttons. The final step was hooking up the buttons to the Google Assistant. After some research, hooking up a Raspberry Pi to Google Assistant is fairly straightforward.

"After hooking it all up, it has some fun commands: 'Red Alert'; 'More Power to the Engines'; 'KAAAAAAHHHHHN'; 'Yellow Alert'; 'Beam me up'. But because its a Raspberry Pi, we’ll constantly be adding to it. Some additions for the future: 'Status Report' will report out REX’s top level metrics; 'Engage' [will] launch a feature of REX."

Garcia's full write-up is available on Medium, while the chair can be seen in-person at REX's Redwood City office.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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