Chirp - sharing data through sound

We had a great look at the latest from Chirp when we were at Music Tech Fest Scandi. Chirp is like a sonic barcode - it sings data and lets you share links, pictures, payments and more between devices, using the Chirp app. Currently crowd-funding through Crowdcube, we talked to founder Patrick Bergel and iOS developer Manabu Shimada about the new Chrome extension, Chirp Composer, future plans, and their SoundCloud hack at MTF Hack Camp.



What Chirp does is ‘sing’ information from one device to another - between phones, or from a computer to a phone nearby. It means you can share things like links, pictures, and payments, via your phone and your built-in speaker. The devices ‘sing’ the data to each other with a tiny audio clip called a chirp, designed for quick and easy data transfer. It’s incredible to see, and has won praise from the likes of New Scientist, The Guardian and Wired.

Chirp has released a Chrome extension that lets you send data from your browser to Android or iOS devices nearby. We got a personal demo from Chirp founder Patrick Bergel who called up a Kitmonsters page and then chirped it to a phone - a really easy way of sharing.

Patrick told us about the big plan for Chirp, and the ethos behind the design.

Our big vision is to teach the machines to sing, to create an internet of sound. Sound is a useful and under appreciated medium for moving data.

We like humane technology and set out to make something that is playful, useful and beautiful. You can even chirp bitcoin over the radio!

The vast majority of shares are of pictures Patrick told us, and in the USA teachers are using Chirp in education. In California Chirp is on 40,000 devices that are used in schools to chirp class notes to the kids.

Chirp combines cutting edge technology with a bird-like chirp noise that manages to sound friendly and fun. Patrick said it took a lot of work to get the mix right and get it to the current point where it is an award-winning platform for sharing data with sound, and a top download in 56 countries.

It was a real engineering challenge and we worked with serious Digital Signalling Processing people. It had to be reliable, useful and a bit beautiful, to sound nice. All of us are music and sound nerds. Manabu is a classically trained composer and another lead developer, Daniel Jones, is an installation artist.

Manabu Shimada and Patrick Bergel

At Music Tech Fest Hack Camp, Manabu and Patrick did a hack using SoundCloud and got the audience to join in.

We managed to hack together a much-requested new extension for the platform, which we will be rolling into Chirp app shortly - the ability to chirp tracks from SoundCloud.

Manabu is a super-talented sound designer and musician, and the kind of guy who builds all his instruments in MAX, for some reason. He composed a sweet drone piece (Aether Drone) for MTF. This was triggered with Chirp for simultaneous multiple playback from the audience, thereby creating a new piece in itself.

We’re big fans of SoundCloud, and pretty excited about the ability to send tracks from device to device with a single button. Stay tuned for the next iOS release, and expect some cool new web browser chirping even sooner!

The latest release for Chirp is Chirp Composer a way for any browser to broadcast links as sound. Chirp has opened Chirp Labs that gives access to all Chirp’s new experimental projects including Chirpino, Chirp on Arduino for IoT applications, and Patrick says they are looking forward to seeing what people do with it.

We want any device to be able to send sonic links to any other device. Chirp Composer is a step forward. We’ve made it super-easy for anyone to drag and drop MP3, PDF, GIFs, YouTube, Vimeo links or raw text from their browser and create chirps that way. The resulting chirp can also be saved as a regular MP3 and played out from any sound-carrying device, from radios to toys to doorbells.

We have a few ideas about what people will do with Composer, but we’re pretty excited to discover new uses we haven’t thought of yet!

Chirp’s Crowdcube investment campaign has attracted a lot of attention and the company is already 80% funded. Patrick says that unlike Kickstarter, Crowdcube lets you buy shares in the company. Instead of just supporting a project you can invest anything from £10 to £100K through their platform. Chirp sees huge potential in rapidly expanding markets in mobile marketing and payments.

The app is free and available on the App Store and Google Play. Developers can get access to Chirp SDKs for Android and iOS in private beta, by contacting Chirp.