As any digital design agency knows, the tech-savvy population is so used to well-designed, user-friendly websites and apps that it’s hard to impress people these days. Especially in the fast-moving world of smartphone application development, it’s not often that something new comes out that’s both so ingenious and so simple that it’s got the potential to revolutionise how we go about our everyday business. Animal Systems, however, have launched an app that has the potential to do just that, offering an innovative new way to share data amongst multiple users with Chirp.
The system is straightforward enough: a burst of ‘digital birdsong’, effectively a kind of audio barcode, identifies the location of a pre-uploaded file on a remote server. As soon as a phone with Chirp installed hears this, it starts to download the information, or, if you aren’t connected to a wireless network at the time, it will remember the chirp and download it as soon as you are.
This may not sound that ground-breaking, but what sets Chirp apart from other data-sharing apps such as Bump is the potential it has to reach large numbers of people at once: anyone in earshot can download the same file. There’s also the fact that you don’t have to do anything other than have Chirp installed to receive data: you don’t have to pair devices, as with Bluetooth, and you don’t need to know someone’s address or username to reach them, as with instant messaging or email sharing. Most importantly, modern smartphones all have sound recording and playback capabilities as standard, which makes Chirp a truly universal way to start sharing.
There’s nothing new about encoding data in sound like this. Anyone of a certain age will remember the grumblings of modems as they dialled into networks in the early days of the internet, and it’s essentially the same technology, just updated for the world of application development and a lot faster! What Chirp has that sets it apart is two major selling points that the creators hope will eventually see the system pre-installed as standard on all newly manufactured smartphone handsets.
The first is its unique sound. Animal Systems claim that the ‘robotic bird’ noise is distinct enough to cut through background noise even in busy, noisy environments, meaning that it can potentially be used just about anywhere and for a staggering array of purposes. Imagine the potential for any marketer or digital design agency if information, special offers, even preview clips of songs or movie trailers can be sent out to multiple customers all at the same time. Chirp even works over PA systems and other electronic delivery systems, so just visiting a website or turning on the radio could allow you to receive data directly to your phone.
The second big selling point is, well, it’s fun. Just like the gimmick behind ‘Bumping’ phones together to share data, ‘Chirping’ is a quirky way to share information, and the sweet sound of a robotic bird announcing the arrival of data is likely to irritate a lot fewer people than some of the truly horrendous ringtones out there. Certainly the creators have worked hard to develop a sound that is fairly unobtrusive, and at the same time they have made it distinct enough to cut through potential background noise in busy environments, meaning that the social aspect of sharing can take place wherever you may be.
Application development is such a competitive field that it remains to be seen whether something like Chirp will have much success beyond its initial novelty value, but it’s certainly made technology bods, the odd digital design agency and plenty of users sit up and take notice. It’s free to download and at present is only available on iPhone, but an Android version is in the works.