The Active Sonar app promises to give you “bat-like vision on your iPhone”. Well in that case, this app is absolute guano.

While the idea is fantastic and cool, the damn thing barely works.

What it’s supposed to do is use the principles of sonar to help you measure distances between, say, where I’m sitting and my computer screen, which is apparently 1.68m.

The interface doesn't really look convincing either, right?

The interface doesn't really look convincing either, right?

And if you read the developer’s description of the app in the App Store, you’d think that you’d be able to pilot a sonarless submarine if you duct taped an iPhone on it:

Active Sonar will allow you to instantly and accurately measure the distance to objects, such as a wall, up to 12 feet away.

Okay, so maybe they don’t promise to help you if you’re underwater, but that’s a pretty big boast anyway, considering how the app works in REALITY.

It basically uses the iPhone speaker to emit a “sonic pulse”, and when it bounces off an object (and by object they mean nothing but a solid wall) the microphone detects the echo and calculates the amount of time it took to.

Here’s another one of their boasts on the App Store:

Given the know speed of sound at a particular room temperature, the distance the sonic pulse has traveled can be computed by multiplying the speed of sound by the amount of time the sound has been travelling. Using this calculation, Active Sonar instantly computes the precise distance the echo has traveled.

“Precise” is definitely not the word to describe this app. Unless my hands are longer than my entire body.

I just tested the app on a perfectly solid wall, in a perfectly quiet room, and the readings were still fluctuating between around 1.5m and 2m.

I guess that’s good enough to have on your iPhone just for fun. But that’s not what the description says, is it? Here’s what it also says:

Following these three simple steps will enable you to see with bat-like vision!

Seriously? Bat-like vision? How terribly lost are those bats?

There a couple other similar sonar apps, Sonar Ruler and Bat Sonar, and they both actually charge US$0.99. I’m definitely not wasting any money on those, especially after I forked out US$9.99 to review the awesome Street Fighter IV a couple weeks ago.


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