Google Makes a Little Noise with “Google Tone.”

Google Makes a Little Noise with “Google Tone.”

Imagine speaking in front of 200 people; and you want them all to open the same Google Document on their phone or laptop. You could display an image of the URL on a projection screen. Or try to project a QR code. Both would be hard to read in a large auditorium. Part of the problem is that Google Doc, URLs are quite long. Waiting for the audience to type in the URL would be slow, arduous and error prone.

Even if you use a URL shortener like bit.ly, the resulting URL could be hard to read at a distance.

Now imagine that your computer could just say the URL, in a way that all the phone’s and laptop could hear the URL. That’s the idea behind Google Tone.

Since most computers and smart phones have a microphone, which can be turned on quickly, they can become responsive to sound. A new Google Chrome extension called Google Tone acts as the sender.

With the extension installed, the sender sees a blue megaphone symbol on the top right of the browser screen. When the sender is displaying the URL they want to transmit to all, they just click the megaphone. Make sure the volume is loud enough to cut through any background noise – and URL is transmitted.

All the devices with their microphone turned on, will hear the sound, and convert it to a clickable link to the target URL. Voila – instant link with no typing errors. … or are there.

The advantages of this technology is that it requires no pairing (like bluetooth devices), no passwords or network choice (as WiFi requires) and no line of sight (like InfraRed beaming did). And so sound seems like the best technology for proximity data transfer. But there are downsides.

First, the receiver must ALSO have the Chrome extension. Otherwise the series of beeps and clicks that are sent, will fall on deaf, computer-ears. So this won’t work on all devices unless they are running Chrome. This is not a huge issue on Android devices where Chrome is the default browser.

Next, the room needs to be quiet – or at least quiet enough for a second or two. In a large auditorium, that may mean blasting the people in the front row, to get the sound all the way to the back row. If an auditorium has enough speakers, placed strategically thought out the room, this may be less of a problem.

Lastly, the utility seems a little silly with all the free URL shorteners like Bit.ly. Even long Google URLs can be shortened to under 10 letters.

So this tech may be a solution searching for a problem. Google Tone was originally used to transmit pictures. Eee-Gads. Imagine trying to send a picture via sound. It must have sounded like the old, 1990’s, modem screech that users had to endure when they connected to the internet on phone lines. While a URL is much shorter, this technology may be a novelty or tech-geek party trick. It may never reach mainstream office use. A neat trick that will find some use, but likely not become mainstream.