Chirp Lets You Send Photos from Device to Device Using Sound


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.

(via Lifehacker)

  • David_Evans

    ” if animals in nature communicate through sound, machines should too.”

    On the other hand this technique is absolutely dependent on the internet, which animals are not known for using.

  • Anonymous

    Stupid. Shrunk my 24MP picture to 0.2MP

  • Anonymous

    Why should machines communicate through sound anyway? Squids communicate through light. Where’s my Show app?

    Animals communicate through touch too. Where’s my Feel app?

    Idiot marketing.

  • Jezz

    Isn’t this just a modem?

  • Ramanuj Dad

    Can we use it for file transferring money? Banking firms while using sms or internet based text technologies then can you this for data encryption. Isn’t it ?

  • audiowutnow

    kinda reminds me of when i tried to record video onto audio tape. its all just data right, who cares about bandwidth. oh, maybe its cause my tape deck wasnt connected to the net which caused my brilliant idea to fail, ahhhhhhhhhh.

  • smartfax

    Or a fax machine…

  • lidocaineus

    No. It’s one way. Modems and fax machines are specifically two wake for handshaking and error correction.

  • Patrick Ahles

    This isn’t new, the app is more than one year old…

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Maybe they can work up to 300 Baud in the next version ;)

  • theart

    I do hope this takes off so that we can get a follow up piece about people coding obscene pictures as their ringtones.

  • Er

    The app isn’t actually sending a photo, right? It is just sending an URL. It’s like a shortcut instead of you just shouting “Hey type in AXREY52AF67 on the Chirp app to see my picture”

  • zeptom

    One part work as radio transmitter and the other as a radio receiver. Simplex communication (one way) where modem and fax use a half-duplex communication just like lidocaineus wrote.

    But I did hear the connection sound from the modem in my head when I read this article.

  • 7LeagueBoots

    Great idea… once they make it so it does not require network access to work and leaves the images full resolution during the transfer then it’ll be a great app.

  • Alex Krylov

    I participated in this “revolution” 25 years ago with my modem :)

  • yopyop

    1) Transfer money via chirp
    2) Let at least 10 smartphones hear the “chirp”
    3) ???
    4) profit ! and create money !

  • Bill G

    This is simply regular wireless technology at a lower frequency. I don’t understand the point.