Google Tone – Sharing through Sound
Google has always had a cool persona, and it’s latest experiment might be the coolest Google Chrome extension anyone has seen yet. By using the power of sound, Google Tone, the company’s newest homegrown browser add-on, quickly shares URLs with anyone else nearby. The extension is available now to download in Chrome’s web store and can be used by any Google Chrome user, regardless of what type of computer they have.
For the extension to work, it must be installed on at least two computers that are in close proximity or within “earshot” of each other and each machine must have its volume turned on. Once the tab you want to share with your friend, colleague or stranger is open, click on the extension in your browser’s toolbar, wait for the series of beeps, and the link will be shared to all nearby computers via a Google Chrome notification.
Amazingly, this Chrome extension, Google Tone, was created in just one afternoon, writes Google’s Alex Kauffman and Boris Smus on the company’s research blog.
“Tone grew out of the idea 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’ve actually made it more complicated to share things with the people standing right next to you,” Kauffmann and Smus write. “Tone aims to make sharing digital things with nearby people as easy as talking to them.”
I’ve run some tests myself, and it did indeed work pretty well. This new extension was able to detect the beeps from a nearby laptop even when the sound was coming through a set of headphones. This isn’t only for sharing one computer to another, but to multiple computers all at once. Of course, each computer needs to have the extension installed.
In behind the nice User Interface, that the working browser is designed to act exactly like actual speech, Kauffman and Smus say, noting that performance may vary based on other factors like distance, volume levels, etc.
“Because it’s audio based, Google Tone behaves like speech in interesting ways. The orientation of laptops relative to each other, the acoustic characteristics of the space, the particular speaker volume and mic sensitivity, and even where you’re standing will all affect Tone’s reliability. Not every nearby machine will always receive every broadcast, just like not everyone will always hear every word someone says. But resending is painless and debugging generally just requires raising the volume. Many groups at Google have found that the tradeoffs between ease and reliability worthwhile—it is our hope that small teams, students in classrooms and families with multiple computers will, too.”