Star Trek fans beam themselves up with new apps

It started on a Canadian bus shelter, but now you too can go all wibbly and disappear...

Two bus shelters in Canada have become Star Trek-style transporters where fans can watch their friends beam up. It’s to promote a Trekkie convention in Calgary – but the technology is available worldwide for free.


The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, in conjunction with Vulcan Tourism – that’s the Alberta town Vulcan, 65 miles south of Calgary, not the planet – have produced a transporter app that uses an image of a Star Trek-style set. Large versions of the image have been fitted to two shelters in Calgary, with a third to be installed at the convention. 

To use the transporter yourself, you will need equipment. Star Trek fans would expect the system’s minimum specifications to be a 24th-century LCARS operating system. But Apple’s iOS devices will do: download the free iPad or iPhone app and get a smaller version of the shelter’s poster here.

Then get a friend to stand looking suitably Starfleet-serious in front of the poster, while you focus your iPhone/iPad camera on them. When you’ve lined it up just so, the app tells you you’ve got “transporter lock”. What that really means is that it’s reconciled your camera image with one that’s already in the app: the empty transporter set. 

Slide a finger up a control a la The Next Generation’s Okudagrams and the app overlays the beaming effect complete with sound. While it’s doing that, it’s also comparing your image with the original empty one to work out exactly where your friend is standing. Then it smoothly replaces every pixel of your friend with one from the empty image: not just cross-dissolving between the images but matching the distance and lighting of the original.

“This technology is so cool,” said Kandrix Foong, who’s directing the Calgary convention. “It’s an interactive way for fans to have some fun. It’s just one aspect of the celebration for the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the cast reunion activities we have planned.”