Tools like email and instant messaging have made it easy for us to share information with people around the world. It can still be overly complicated to share something with people in the same room as us though. Google Tone allows users to share URLs with computers that are within earshot.
Tone is a Google Chrome extension that allows computers to communicate in the same way as humans use their voices. The information being relayed is encoded into the sounds that are made, only, instead of words, the extension uses dual-tone multi-frequency signaling.
An earlier prototype had used a different means of audio transmission, but it apparently "sounded terrible" and was not as reliable. Google says its launch version is reliable for short distances even at low volumes, is especially useful for groups of people working in the same room (as one broadcast can be recognized by multiple computers) and works over Hangouts too.
Once the extension has been installed, it's reported to be quick and simple to share URLs. Users need only load the relevant URL in a Chrome tab and click the Tone button in the browser. Their computer will then emit a series of beeps that will be received by other machines using the Tone extension, with the URL being opened on each receiving machine in a new tab.
As with human speech, Tone requires that computers are close enough for one to register sounds made by the other. Its success can be affected by factors including the orientation of computers relative to each other, the acoustics of the room, speaker volume of the broadcasting computer and microphone sensitivity of the receiving computer. Should a transmission be unsuccessful, however, the issue can likely be fixed quickly by simply turning the volume up and retrying.
Google Tone is available to download from the Chrome Web Store. The video below provides a brief introduction to Google Tone.