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We Talked To The Designers Who Helped Create The Tech For “Star Trek Beyond” And They Blew Our Minds

What goes into creating incredible, futuristic tech for a movie set 250 years in the future? We talked to the techs at Hewlett Packard Enterprise to find out.

Chris Carlozzi is a product designer and Belgie McClelland is a 3D art director at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Chris Carlozzi (left) and Belgie McClelland (right) / Via

And they both jumped at the chance to design tech with Paramount for the new film Star Trek Beyond. “It was a call to think in a futurist way and help out,” said McClelland

Their inspiration? The Machine, a groundbreaking research project being developed by the company, that looks to reinvent the way computing works across the board, from your smartphone to inside the data center. The Machine will empower tomorrow’s thinkers and innovators to dream up a future that was never before thought possible. Sounds at home in the Star Trek universe already!

While The Machine project is light-years ahead of its time, it turns out that designing futuristic technology for a beloved space franchise is not a usual part of their jobs.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

Being added to a team that would work on Star Trek Beyond was pure chance. They had both recently switched teams when the opportunity came up. Normally, they work on groundbreaking projects that are pushing the boundaries of how we use the internet and technology — so this wasn't so different, after all.

We had the opportunity to talk to them about the process of imagining technology concepts that have never even been thought of before. Here’s what we learned.

1. It's less about inventing something brand spanking new and more about evolving current technologies in surprising, innovative ways.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

"They need to have a little bit of present-day reality," said McClelland, HPE's 3D art director. "They need to be relatable and connect to a modern viewer so that somebody wouldn't just be confused looking at it. We wanted to create evolutions of modern technologies that were surprising but still relevant to the audience."

2. The props don't really work — but they could have.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

"To work in the movie, they needed to have a few moving parts, a little bit of mechanical reality," said McClelland. "We tried to make it seem like we could really make these if we put some effort into it. I think we could have."

3. They realized anything was possible when they first began the project.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

"It was very early," said Carlozzi, a product designer at HPE. "We sat down with Paramount and they told us we would be working on Star Trek Beyond, and that was amazing. The sky was really the limit."

4. Working with a movie's schedule is a total whirlwind.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

"A movie has shoot times that can't be moved, so we had to work with those," said Carlozzi. "They could come back and tell us something was great and they needed it built in a week. It was so fast, but so much fun because of it."

5. Not all of the technology made it into the movie.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

They pitched 10 different designs, with three making into the film: Quarantine, Book, and Diagnostic Wrap.

6. They definitely had favorites that didn't make it in.

For example...

The Interface Element

Marjan Farsad

The Interface Element is a wearable computer that a person could set down on an object or against another computer. The interface would pop up, and the person could interact with it, learning information about what they were looking at or the tech they were interacting with, using augmented reality.

An android that doubles as a multifunctional tool:

Marjan Farsad

It would be a true robot, in Carlozzi's mind: "I imagined it talking more in like beeps and boops." It could be taken apart and various parts of it could be used as different tools — some basic, like a drill or shovel, and some more advanced, given it has a computer server in it.

And a peace-making torpedo used only for knowledge-sharing and data collection:

Marjan Farsad

"Star Trek Beyond is about exploration, seeking out cultures, and learning new things," said Carlozzi, "so this torpedo is not a weapon of war at all." Instead, it contains a mesh of devices that could talk to each other. The computers could then collect and share mission critical data, translate languages, or reach out to a ship.

7. Working on a project like this was a truly incredible experience.

Sketches provided by Chris Carlozzi, courtesy of HPE and Paramount.

"We talk about it every day, taking something from nothing and building it," said McClelland, "but now you have this whole blue-sky option — how you take your ideas for future technologies and communicate them to other people. You’re coming from server-world to a really expansive creative environment, and to be able to tell your story and see people light up or make comments or ask you questions was really cool."

Carlozzi agrees. "Sitting and going through the concepts for the movie team, they were kind of like, 'We were not expecting this. This is fantastic. These are amazing storytelling devices.' Being from software, I’m all about storytelling, so when we got to them and were able to do that in a totally different world, it was amazing how relatable it was."

Star Trek Beyond is in theaters now. Don’t miss the chance to see HPE-inspired tech in action! Learn more about how The Machine will fundamentally change the future of tech.