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Chirp me that will you?
July 23, 2012 3:45 AM   Subscribe

Chirp is an application that allows information such as photos, text or links to be transmitted to devices in earshot. The "chirp" containing the link to the data may be played from a devices or broadcast over radio or PA systems. Unlike many similar system the technology does not require receiving devices to be pre-paired. For now available only as an iPhone application. Discussion and demonstration.
posted by rongorongo (55 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think the CueCat software was doing this over a decade ago. I wonder if they ran into any patent troubles.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:56 AM on July 23, 2012


Kids these days, shirping away every five minutes. Back in my day, we made out under the bleachers, like normal folk!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 AM on July 23, 2012


It's all fun and games until Agent Smith hacks into your brain through your ear.
posted by XMLicious at 4:04 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like a QR Code except it's completely transitory?
posted by PenDevil at 4:13 AM on July 23, 2012


Email is an application that allows information such as photos, text or links to be transmitted to devices anywhere on the Internet. It also doesn't require devices to be pre-paired and is available on many devices, possibly including iPhones.
posted by DU at 4:14 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but can you use email to make an ad pop up on people's phones as they walk past your shore? No! This new wonder technology provides *much* greater opportunity to be vicious annoying bastards!
posted by Jimbob at 4:18 AM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Forgot to note: created by AnimalSystems - Offshoot from University College London's Computer Science dept. The guy being interviewed is Patrick Bergel. They apparently used bird song as an inspiration. The iPhone app.
posted by rongorongo at 4:24 AM on July 23, 2012


Like a QR Code except it's completely transitory?

No problem, I'll set the billboard to rebroadcast every 10 seconds.
posted by Leon at 4:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is a really cool idea and I hope it does catch on.
It's so space agey, it just has to be good for something.
posted by Flashman at 4:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't like it at all.

The advantage of a QR code is that you point a camera at it. It has physical selectivity. Unless the image is physically hacked (with a superimposition), you are guaranteed authentic data.

Chirps do not have physical selectivity. They could be coming from anywhere, like an anonymous shout. Is the chirp coming from your friend, or from a subversive? If Chirps become popular enough to have more than happening within earshot, how will you select between them?

It's cool from a "hey wow we can make a software modem out of a smartphone" but it is not secure. If you want peer-peer transmission, make one phone display a one-off QR code and the other one read it. That's secure.

Chirp is bad.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:43 AM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is great for when you're at a big nerd convention and the organizers want to chirp everyone that it might take hours for SMS/MMS messages to be transmitted and delivered. And to beware of some kid named Ensign Crunch whistling chirps to goatse on the cloud.
posted by herrdoktor at 4:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


seanmpucket: At least in my experimentation a received chirp is marked with the ID of the sender (or "unknown" for anonymous senders).

The interview mentions that they are considering using the technology to send money - that I would be more cautious about. I guess the system should be able to identify who has received a chirp message however: information which it would be polite to share with the sender.
posted by rongorongo at 4:51 AM on July 23, 2012


"We have a systems patent on moving short codes over the air," he said.

I got an air-transmitted short code for you.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:53 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like MFSK, which is used in a lot of amateur radio digital communications. Packet radio folks have been playing with short-distance audio data transmission using Bell AFSK codes for years, too.
posted by scruss at 5:01 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, now that I've watched the video, that is way longer and more annoying than a chirp.

An interesting application might be some kind of out-of-band authentication between two devices that are already talking to each other over a network.
posted by XMLicious at 5:02 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but can you use email to make an ad pop up on people's phones as they walk past your shore? No! This new wonder technology provides *much* greater opportunity to be vicious annoying bastards!

then you'll just *love* the Car Whisperer
posted by russm at 5:13 AM on July 23, 2012


Apple's expensive hardware development licenses have create a whole ecosystem of things using sound for data - a little like loading tapes in the 8-bit days, but instead of disks being too expensive, lawyers are now too expensive.

See also, the amazing stuff that the Hijack team (http://web.eecs.umich.edu/~prabal/projects/hijack/) have done to interface sensors to sound, then consume it through the standard audio ports.

I have recollections of recording audio for computer consumption, but never sure if this was in a broadcast medium; the BBC, I think, did it with software available on a visual medium.

There's a lot of parallels with QR Codes - you can record/photograph them, duplicate them, share them. I like that the carrier medium and payload are decoupled, in both; they can both be used in ways that they were never intended. However, like the way QR Codes have been killed by incredibly bad deployment and questionable uses, I think this will go the same way. Screaming in a full cinema? Echoes and sound corruption? Low-quality recordings? All theses things will kill it, I suspect.
posted by davemee at 5:17 AM on July 23, 2012


Ok, in case any other chumps out there just installed this, here's a chirp.
posted by Flashman at 5:34 AM on July 23, 2012


No! This new wonder technology provides *much* greater opportunity to be vicious annoying bastards!

NONONO!!! You have it wrong! It's a *much* greater opportunity to enhance and bring added value to the consumer relationship!!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This also seems like the ultimate way to spray an audience with a virus upload. QED.

But if I stop being freaked out by all the ways this is a hackers wet dream of a little tool, especially if the upload software becomes a more passive and seamless part of an OS...etc...

It would be a good way for a band at a concert to get get everyone the same visuals and create an audience leveraged visual show...

Also, just before or after a song plays, so that credits and photos, and graphics of the band can be enjoyed while hearing a song.

If you buy a piece of vinyl one of the tracks can be the chirp to the MP-3's of the release so you can take it with you. That would need some sort of authentication though.

Or at conventions and trade shows you could get the chirp and all the applicable literature for a product...

I guess the most powerful thing about it is how it instantly synchronizes every iPhone in the room that "hears" the chirp. So it seems a natural for an enclosed audience setting.

A teacher or speaker can broadcast to a lecture hall an image or set of notes to student tablets/ipads etc to assist with a lesson or lecture.



It's really neat. No doubt about it.
posted by Skygazer at 5:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The chirp sound is hyper-annoying. We have to listen to that whenever somebody around us chirps? Fuck that noise.
posted by SPUTNIK at 5:41 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flash mobs could incorporate it in some interesting ways. So could marches or protests.

Has R2D2 made a statement on this technology yet??
posted by Skygazer at 5:45 AM on July 23, 2012


startup idea: chirp jammer.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:50 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


The chirp sound is hyper-annoying. We have to listen to that whenever somebody around us chirps? Fuck that noise.

My dog is a firm advocate of your point FWIW. Interestingly it seems like they actually worked a little on trying to get the sound more acceptable:
Making the chirps sound pleasant took some careful sound design. The smartphone-generated chirps sound "birdish" rather than birdlike, says the Animal Systems developer, Dan Jones. While earlier attempts sounded more lifelike – "I made a pretty passable wren," says Bergel – test users found them creepy, much as robotic attempts to recreate human behaviour can fall foul of the so-called uncanny valley.
posted by rongorongo at 6:07 AM on July 23, 2012


It would be a good way for a band at a concert to get get everyone the same visuals and create an audience leveraged visual show [...] I guess the most powerful thing about it is how it instantly synchronizes every iPhone in the room that "hears" the chirp. So it seems a natural for an enclosed audience setting.

That's going to create a nasty data-jam as 500 phones try to download a few megs of data at the same time in the same location. Better to put a QR code on the ticket.

If you buy a piece of vinyl one of the tracks can be the chirp to the MP-3's of the release so you can take it with you.

Please don't even joke about it.
posted by Leon at 6:14 AM on July 23, 2012


> startup idea: chirp jammer.

Should be enough to just not run the Chirp app when you don't want to receive crap, no? All these nightmare scenarios seem predicated on Chirp being continually running and auto-executing received messages, and that doesn't seem practical, nevermind probable.
posted by ardgedee at 6:19 AM on July 23, 2012


Is this the same "chirp" that has been used for some years now in geocaching?
posted by brokkr at 6:21 AM on July 23, 2012


All these nightmare scenarios seem predicated on Chirp being continually running and auto-executing received messages...

There's also the additional nightmare of not being able to turn your ears off.

But also: if it isn't auto-executing, what's the point? Like I said, email.
posted by DU at 6:24 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I chirp my tweets?
posted by The Bellman at 6:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you like the chirp, I'm sure you'll enjoy my upcoming (patent pending) Bilateral Electronically Linked Limited Organizational Wireless system.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The interview mentions that they are considering using the technology to send money

Wouldn't that be almost literally like throwing money up into the air, and hoping that the right person catches it?
posted by echo target at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


> But also: if it isn't auto-executing, what's the point? Like I said, email.

The point as I understand it is to provide short length communications of a timely manner semi-asynchronously within a limited physical area. email doesn't really do that. Twitter is closer to the mark but isn't quite it either.

I can grasp how the use case is distinct and interesting, I am not sure what there is to like about it yet, is the thing.
posted by ardgedee at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


brokkr: "Is this the same "chirp" that has been used for some years now in geocaching?"
To answer myself, no it's not.
posted by brokkr at 7:34 AM on July 23, 2012


You have to hand it to marketers...They keep adapting technologies in their wild-eyed belief that, eventually, they will will hit on the magic tech that consumers will eagerly embrace with open arms and become one with the advertising.

The one thing that just never registers on their radar is that consumers don't want to become one with the message. Chirp will fail, just as QR codes have not been embraced by consumers. Of course, the downside of consumers not eagerly volunteering to become involved with advertising is that all that leaves marketers with is directed-broadcast marketing...Like in Minority Report, where ads were narrow-cast directly at the individual, with no way to block it. Can you imagine what grocery shopping at your local mega-mart will be like when the shelves are continually talking to you?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


A rebuttal in short story form (SLPDF)
posted by duffell at 7:42 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Woof!
posted by stevil at 8:49 AM on July 23, 2012


You know, if instead of making sound you modulated the electromagnetic field, maybe around 2.4GHz, you'd have something really high bandwidth and silent.

In other words, what's wrong with Bluetooth or 802.11? The chirp.io FAQ says it's because you don't need to pair to use Chirp. My Bluetooth is fuzzy, does it lack any sort of anonymous / broadcast capability? You can certainly do it with 802.11 easily enough, that's essentially what a wardriving application does.

I think the writing about Chirp conflates the idea of anonymous short range broadcast with the implementation of doing it as audio. Radio is a much better medium. The fun part about Chirp to me is people can hear it too, it's not as mysterious as radio. But I think in any practical application the noise would quickly be annoying.
posted by Nelson at 9:02 AM on July 23, 2012


I wonder how soon Marketing will invent the 300 baud acoustic coupler.
posted by flabdablet at 9:05 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The advantage of a QR code is that you point a camera at it. It has physical selectivity. Unless the image is physically hacked (with a superimposition), you are guaranteed authentic data.

You know that made me think it might be a fun prank to cover up existing QR codes on real life ads and whatnot with ones that link to subversive sites, but then I remembered that nobody actually scans QR codes on ads.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:13 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know that made me think it might be a fun prank to cover up existing QR codes on real life ads and whatnot with ones that link to subversive sites, but then I remembered that nobody actually scans QR codes on ads.

Maybe you need to put a teeny goatse at the centre of the QR code, as a signal to those in the know that it's been co-opted.
posted by Leon at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2012


Also, as a guy who has hearing sensitivities particularly toward high-pitched, squealing type sounds -- which is (also) a common experience for folks on the Aspergers line -- I would probably actively seek out anyone who was making this kind of sound intentionally and put a stop to it. Honestly, it is horrible, horrible, and given that their early-adopter audience is basically geeks, I am shocked that it has even gotten as far as it has.

If it was actually a 100ms chirp it might be tolerable, but that long squeaking squealing sound is just awful.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:27 AM on July 23, 2012


~The advantage of a QR code is that you point a camera at it. It has physical selectivity. Unless the image is physically hacked (with a superimposition), you are guaranteed authentic data.

~You know that made me think it might be a fun prank to cover up existing QR codes on real life ads and whatnot with ones that link to subversive sites, but then I remembered that nobody actually scans QR codes on ads.


Do you know how easy it is to generate and print QR code stickers that link to goatse? Very. Trust me on that.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2012


This will be a golden age for Goatse and Lemon Party.
posted by cmoj at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012


I'd be behind this if they changed each of their "notes" to different intonations of George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words.

shit PISS goddamn ffuuuuCCCKKK moTHERfuCKER fuck fuck FUUUUCCCKKKK GODDAMNSHITCOCKPISSFUCK congratulations chirp is now redirecting you to Exodus 20:3
posted by suckerpunch at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems like there'd be an inherent limit to how popular this could get.

From a technical standpoint, if multiple phones chirp at the same time, could the receiver demux the original signals?

From a social standpoint, I agree with Nelson and seanmpuckett, a chirp from a single phone is annoying as it is. Chirps from multiple phones? I think people would start going Hulk-Smash crazy.
posted by comradechu at 11:44 AM on July 23, 2012


//But Chirp has the advantage that it can quickly send data to multiple devices at once without them needing to be either paired or have a wireless connection.

If recipients are offline their devices will remember the "chirp" and download associated content later.//

Wait, it doesn't actually transmit the data? Just a link to the data, so you still have to DL it later? LAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMEEEEEEEE.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2012


A rebuttal in short story form

And one in novel form:
New York, New York!....I saw a miraculously clear stretch of sidewalk....I walked past — and WOWP a blast of sound shook my skull and FLOOP a great supernova flare of light burned my eyes, and I went staggering and reeling as tiny, tiny elf voices shouted like needles in my ear Mokie-Koke, Mokie-Koke, MokieMokieMokie-Koke!

...."I warned ya," yelled the little old man from a safe distance....He was still waving the signpost, so I staggered closer and blearily managed to deciper the legend under the graffiti:

Warning!
COMMERCIAL ZONE
Enter at Own Risk

...."What's a 'Mokie-Coke'?" I asked.....There was a vending machine, just like all the other Mokie-Koke machines I'd been seeing all along, on the Moon, in the spaceport, along the city streets. "Don't fool with the singles" he advised anxiously. "Go for the six-pack, okay?"....Poor old guy! I felt so sorry for him that I split the six-pack as we headed for the address the Agency had given me. Three shots apiece. He thanked me with tears in his eyes but, all the same, out of the second six-pack I only gave him one.

...."Dr. Mosskristal will review your medical problem for you." And the tone said bad news...."What you have," she explained, "is a Campbellian reflex. Named after Dr. H.J. Campbell. Famous pioneering psychologist in the old days, inventor of limbic-pleasure therapy."...."Let's just say that you've had your limbic areas stimulated; under the influence of that great upwelling of pleasure you've become conditioned to associate Mokie-Koke with joy, and there's nothing to be done about it."
posted by Lexica at 2:36 PM on July 23, 2012


I already have an idea for a defensive app to use against what are sure to be chirp abuses. Im calling it "buckshot".
posted by Vibrissae at 3:53 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's only cute when R2-D2 does it.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:17 PM on July 23, 2012


Heh. By coincidence, I was a street party a week ago and got chatting to the inventor, who lives round the corner. And he did the demo with me - I was slightly surprised to find he carried 3 iphones with him but I was half a jug of Pimms in to my day so what the heck. He seemed quite relaxed for a man that was launching his big bit of software the next week.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:22 AM on July 24, 2012


I saw Chirp at a demo a few months ago, during which we were trying to brainstorm useful applications for it. It's an interesting idea and it does what it says very well - yet I can't but help think that it falls into an uncomfortable netherworld of data transmission protocols. Between Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, wifi, cellular, QR codes/image recognition, it's not clear what's left for Chirp given that all of those standards have so much support behind them.

Also, as far as I can tell, Chirp (like other apps) will find it difficult working in the background on iOS, meaning that there's at least one extra step involved in receiving anything.

I imagine it could be pretty fun for specific applications like toys, education, etc. But for general usage, the audio annoyance factor, as stated above, is pretty considerable.
posted by adrianhon at 1:54 AM on July 24, 2012


But for general usage, the audio annoyance factor, as stated above, is pretty considerable.

The sound IO should go all the way to 40khz ish right? Why not just shift to some high frequency tones that basically no one can hear. Propagation might get a bit weird...and it might be uncomfortable, so you might just have to keep things quiet and bump your iBits together to do it. But higher frequencies would mean more BW anyway.

Contrasting with the Qcode thingys, the big problem with sound is that there is a finite time period to record it, so things have to be synched more carefully. For passive displays the camera codes do win out there.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:29 AM on July 24, 2012


Why does the technology I love keep conspiring to turn me into a shut in? Constant, asynchronous chirping noises will turn me into a baby-punching luddite in about 90 minutes.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:06 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not just shift to some high frequency tones that basically no one can hear.

Maybe because Bluetooth covers all those use cases about 10000x better and everybody already has it?
posted by flabdablet at 3:53 PM on July 24, 2012


FWIW the Chirp FAQ says they don't use ultrasound because "you wouldn’t hear them, so we’ve left them out. For now, anyway."
posted by Nelson at 4:00 PM on July 24, 2012


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