Google Tone lets your computer shout to nearby computers

20 May 2015

Google’s researchers have put together a pretty cool extension called Tone that allows people in close proximity to ‘shout’ links to one another through sound.

As the researchers say themselves, the ability to transmit links through sound isn’t exciting from a functional point of view, but rather one with great potential for being able to have computers literally talk to one another in the same way we as humans do.

According to the researchers’ blog, the idea for Tone came out of the idea that while it is now easier than ever to transmit information, emails and links to people on the other side of the world, the same can’t be said for when the person is right beside us, when saying it would be easier.

Google Tone notification screengrab

How a Google Tone notification looks on screen

Alex Kauffmann, interaction researcher, and Boris Smus, software engineer at Google, said that the idea initially came as a fun experiment for them created in an afternoon, but they quickly realised they were using it to genuinely send links back and forth to one another.

Downloaded as a Chrome extension, the pair say that it’s still very much experimental and won’t work all the time: “Not every nearby machine will always receive every broadcast, just like not everyone will always hear every word someone says… Many groups at Google have found that the trade-offs between ease and reliability are worthwhile — it is our hope that small teams, students in classrooms, and families with multiple computers will too.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic