New Chrome extension from Google yells at nearby computers to transfer data

Digital Storm Triton laptop Onkyo logo
Shooting data over sound waves is nothing novel — it’s one way particularly nasty strands of malware spread among air-gapped computers and how Chromecast communicates with devices on separate Wi-Fi networks — but Google’s experimental new extension for Chrome uses the medium to send an entirely different kind of information: webpage addresses.

Google Chrome Tone, as it’s called, translates URLs into audible signals, working like a telephone to send data quite literally over the air. It encodes markers in a series of beeps — a process known as “dual-tone multi-frequency signaling” — that nearby computers with Tone installed can understand. Messages sent by clicking the Tone button in the Chrome extension toolbar trigger an actionable notification on recipient computers with your Google profile, picture, and the shared URL.

Tone, of course, is more of a pairing mechanism than means of data transfer — the reasons sound isn’t great for sending data are many, but one is its incredible susceptibility to interference (as anyone who’s attended a monster truck rally can tell you). Instead, Tone and similar sound-sending apps upload the data to be sent to servers and use the tones as digital signposts to the data’s location. That means Tone will never work without an Internet connection, of course, but does open the door to far more than URLs in the future — nothing technical is stopping Google from expanding Tone to photo or file transfer.

So what’s the advantage over e-mail, exactly? Installation requirement aside, it’s a platform-agnostic way to synchronize sending — every computer in range (even over video messaging like Skype and Hangouts) receives the same data at theoretically the same time, although travel time is impacted to a degree by barriers and noise level. “Not every nearby machine will always receive every broadcast, just like not everyone will always hear every word someone says,” explained Google Research’s Alex Kauffman and Boris Smus in a blog post.

Then again, considering troubleshooting is a simple as turning up the volume, Tone still has appeal. Kauffman and Smus write it’s best suited for “small teams, students in classrooms, and families with multiple computers.”

You can give Tone a go yourself by installing the extension from the Chrome Web Store.

Gaming

New ‘Battlefield V’ patch gives Nvidia’s ray tracing support a chance to shine

‘Battlefield V’ is the first game to use Nvidia’s ray tracing support, now available with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards. The feature can, in an ideal scenario, make the game look better, but the performance hit may not be…
Home Theater

What are HDMI ARC and eARC? Here’s how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next generation technology, eARC.
Home Theater

How to know if you’ve got great Dolby Atmos sound

Dolby Atmos surround sound has become the holy grail for home theater lovers who want the best possible sound from their systems. But getting Dolby Atmos isn't as straightforward as you might think. Compatibility problems between components…
Computing

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.
Computing

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, and it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.
Mobile

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Deals

These Raspberry Pi 3 bundles will cover everyone, from coders to gamers

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a low-budget computing platform capable of doing just about anything. We rounded up a handful of the best Raspberry Pi 3 bundles to get you started on a variety of DIY projects.