Google has published a Chrome extension that allows you to share URLs in an interesting new way. Click a button and a simple chirrup from your computer’s speakers sends the link to other devices in earshot.
The little piece of software called Tone is inspired by the fact that “while digital communication methods like email and chat have made it infinitely easier, cheaper and faster to share things with people across the globe, they have actually made it more complicated to share things with the people standing right next to you.” To fix that problem, a team at Google built a quick-and-dirty version of Tone to send links via audio — and it worked so well that they decided to neaten it up and make it public.
The result is an extension for Chrome called Tone which must be installed on the both the computer sending the link and those that want to receive it. The Google team has replaced the original sound — “an efficient audio transmission scheme that sounded terrible” — with both an ultrasonic and dual-tone audio signal. The engineers claims that it “is reliable for short distances in the majority of audio environments even at low volumes.”
It’s not perfect, though: in much the same way as you sometimes mishear a colleague, Tone doesn’t always catch the link, as a result of volume, mic sensitivity and the surroundings in which it’s being used. There’s also the small fact that your computer’s mic has to be switched on at all times to sense Tone broadcasts — something that privacy advocates will no doubt shudder at.