The thinking behind the new Android and iOS app Chirp is that if animals in nature communicate through sound, machines should too. And so, the four person Animal Systems team created an app that does just that: no bluetooth, no email, no ‘bumping’ — images and other files are sent using only 2-second sound clips.
Here’s a quick intro to the app:
As you can see, the concept is extremely simple. Once you’ve selected a photo to share, all you have to do is hit the yellow button and any phone within earshot (or is it micshot?) that has the Chirp app open will receive the photo.
The technical aspect is explained in detail here, but basically, specific sound frequencies are assigned a number or letter by the app. When you take a photo or select a file, it’s assigned an alphanumeric code that is then encoded as sound in the “chirp.” When you press the button, the “chirp” broadcasts that code, which others running the app decode into a link and, ultimately, your photo. All of this happens in real time.
Since Chirp works exclusively through sound, there is no security, but the app has to be on and in the foreground in order to hear your chirp. On the up side, that means that sending a photo to tens of people at once is super easy. On the down side, any unwanted eavesdroppers will receive the file as well.
So what’s next for Chirp? The app’s creators are thinking of adding in some security by making it more like a messaging app (e.g. you’d have to specify your recipient and only they would be allowed to decode the sound). They’re also thinking of adding in ultrasonic tones.
The real goal here, however, is “teach[ing] the machines to sing”:
This is our big idea. Today, smartphones — tomorrow, the world. We want to enable anything that carries sound to carry data. That means: doorbells, saxophones, ATMs, car horns, barbershop choirs, and so on.
If you want to be a part of this audio data transfer revolution, check out the free Chirp app for yourself by heading over to its website or downloading it for iOS or Android by clicking on the corresponding link.