Chirp is a way to share links using sound.
Because sound is everywhere. Because there are billions of little loudspeakers on Earth: in radios, TVs, laptops, phones. So everywhere there’s a loudspeaker, you can put links to useful or interesting or helpful stuff. That’s why.
Chirp is designed for quick and easy sharing between people in the same place. Unlike Bluetooth, Chirp doesn’t require you to pair devices. Unlike email, you don’t need to type in anyone’s address. Unlike instant messaging clients, you don’t have to add recipients from a buddy list. And so on. To share stuff, you don’t need to be friends on Facebook, or to follow each other on Twitter, or be connected on LinkedIn. None of that is needed. Just press the big yellow Chirp button, and anyone running the app can ‘hear’ the data.
Because we transfer little bits of data as sound, more than one person can receive a chirp at once. So you can send a chirp over a PA system, over the radio, or a YouTube movie. It’s up to you. Where else could we put a chirp? Let us know your ideas.
You can think of a chirp as a tiny piece of music. Each chirp lasts about two seconds. The system listens out for a couple of dozen notes played rapidly in a certain order, within a certain range, at a certain speed. The audio engine tries to decode the sequence of notes into a sequence of letters which our server understands. The server then returns a link to the user so they can go wherever the short code points: to a webpage, say. This decode all happens in realtime on your phone. Here’s a brief technical introduction.
The world is a noisy place. Chirp is designed to cope with traffic sound, music, speech, TVs blaring in the background, and so on. We’ve spent a lot of time on buses and bars in South London testing the Chirp audio engine, and we think the system is pretty good at present. Roughly speaking, if you can hear it, the app can hear it. Chirp works better if you’re close to the sound in a fairly quiet place, and it doesn’t work at all if you’re a long way away in a noisy place.
Yes, just like speaking. If Alice chirps something to Bob, and Charles is listening, then Charles can hear it too. In future, we may make it more like a regular messaging system where Alice needs to specify Bob’s name. But that wouldn’t be nearly so much fun.
No. If you put the app in the background, it’s off.
No. We don’t send any audio off your phone. The decoding bit is all done on the phone using whatever sounds like a Chirp, and then we delete the audio.
Chirp can hear ultrasonic tones. But then you wouldn’t hear them, so we’ve left them out. For now, anyway.
Yes! After you’ve received something, just tap it to show the ‘Share’ button:
Tap ‘Share’ to to share with Facebook, Twitter or email.
Just as soon as we can make it happen.
Communication across all kinds of devices – and not just smartphones – is very, very important to us. But we’re a small team with limited resources, so it may take us a little while to get there. We’ll be working on versions of Chirp for Android first, with many others in the pipeline. Watch this space for more news.
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.