POSTED: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 10:19am
UPDATED: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 10:21am
Search results you can smell, a crowdsourced hunt for pirate booty and paying for vowels on Twitter are some of this year's attempts at tech pranks. Few fooled anymore, but the annual tech ritual is still fun to watch.
Every April Fools' Day, tech companies big and small roll out carefully constructed jokes. They're a way for the companies to show they know how to have to have a little fun, while conveniently getting in some free marketing at the same time.
Google continues to be the undisputed champion of April Fools' tomfoolery, with elaborate offerings and high-production-value announcement videos across various Google products.
Google Maps is following up last year's 8-bit maps overlay with an old-timey treasure map. The real, interactive overlay comes complete with sepia-tinged Street View images and a detailed backstory.
It seems the 315-year-old map was found by divers capturing Google Maps underwater street view images. It belonged to pirate William "Captain" Kidd and contains hidden clues and symbols. The company invites people to help search for treasure, admire the hand-drawn landmarks and look out for pirates.
Google's iconic search page unveiled smellable search results with Google Nose. When you search for certain keywords like durian, campsite, moth balls, grandpa's hat or maple syrup, a description of that object's odor and a big blue "Smell" button appear alongside the search results.
According to the "Google Aromabase," Abraham Lincoln smells like an old, musty "remnant of American history." To experience it for yourself, lean in and press enter. The 15 million-plus sentibytes of data were collected via Android devices and smart vehicles. (There is, of course, a safe-search feature for smells you'd rather not experience.)
YouTube announced it was shutting down completely. The past eight years have actually just been a contest to determine the best video ever made. The service has finally collected enough entries and will begin the long reviewing and judging process to select a winner. The process will only take 10 years to sift through 150,000 finalists, the site said.
YouTube celebrities such as Charlie of "Charlie Bit My Finger" and Antoine "Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife" Dodson make special appearances in the video announcing the contest.
Other Google attempts include Gmail Blue (everything is radically redesigned to be blue), Google+ auto-detecting emoticons, and Google Fiber hotspots attached to utility poles.
Twitter announced it was splitting its service into two, with a full, paid version that will charge for vowels ($5/month) and a free version called "Twttr" that will allow only consonants. Part-time vowel "Y" will continue to be free, and the length of tweets is being expanded to 141 characters.
"We're doing this because we believe that by eliminating vowels, we'll encourage a more efficient and 'dense' form of communication," the company announced in its April Fools' blog post.
(True story: Twitter founders considered using that vowel-free version for the site's name).
Virgin Atlantic unveiled a photo of its new glass-bottom plane, giving everyone a window seat.
Nokia announced it was making a touch-screen microwave that integrates eye-tracking technology and automatic food photography. The Nokia 5AM-TH1N6 Constellation will retail for 399 Euros (about $511), though subsidized versions may be available.
"More models, including a mini variant targeted towards people with small appetites, and a 10-inch variant aimed at no one in particular, are also planned," the company said in a blog post.
Sony unveiled its latest line of headphones and speakers for cats, dogs and even hamsters, called Animalia.