By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated April 02, 2012.
Ah, Sunday was that time of the year again -- when tech companies put down their latest passions and conspire to become the cleverest trickster of all. April Fools' Day is becoming the Christmas of inspired ideas for tech companies, when imaginations let go of business plans.
With real life veering so close to fiction these days, it's often hard to tell immediately what's a joke on that day. For instance, some may have thought that reports on Sunday of a bus-size meteor that veered close to Earth was one of the more frightening jokes, but that one was true.
However, there were undoubtedly immediate suspicions about a new video posted Sunday on Nascar.com. Calling the report "a news update," NASCAR announced it was working with Google to bring the search-engine giant's genuine autonomous vehicle technology to NASCAR racing by the middle of next season. Fortunately for the livelihood of race car drivers, that future is not yet upon us.
One wonders if the geniuses at Google have way too much time on their hands, since jokes were blossoming from the technology leader like mushrooms after a spring rain. Chrome launched its Multitask Mode, so users can "browse the web with multiple cursors at the same time, so you can get more done, faster." This "ambinavigation revolution," where you can use as many mice as your computer can handle, will, the company said, allow you to "purchase land while you meet the love of your life."
But, you say, what I really need is a full keyboard on a smartphone. Apparently, Google's April Fools department was listening. It "announced" Gmail Tap, which, instead of a cumbersome conventional keyboard, has two keys for Morse Code's dots and dashes. And, if you love Morse Code but want to join the ambinavigation revolution, a multitasking mode supports two Morse Code keyboards simultaneously.
Supporting Google's April Fool's Day assault, the Google Chrome AdBlock extension took to showing cat pictures in lieu of blocked ads.
Teleporting, Rotary Phones
Google also demonstrated pixilated, 8-bit renditions of its Google Maps, in an echo of the old, and beloved, Nintendo Entertainment System. And there was the new Google Fiber Bar, an homage to the company's reported efforts to build a fiber optic network that, instead, provides a nutrient-rich fiber cereal bar.
A click-to-teleport extension from the Google Inside AdWords Group allows advertisers to transport customers to the physical store containing the described product. Unfortunately, the return teleporting function is still under development.
And there's Google's new GoRo initiative, offering resources for businesses to optimize their site for the expected boom in Web access through rotary-dial phones.
The engineers at Sony must have been asking themselves why Google should have all the fun. In response that company released a video about its new Sony VAIO Q, a new Ultrabook the size of a quarter. But the size won't deter its potential, since the Q sports 8 GB of memory, full HD 1080p resolution and a high-end graphics card.
Temporal Timeline, Shaped Tablets
While Google and Sony attempted to conquer the spatial limitations of modern computing, Reddit used April 1 to tackle the temporal ones. It's new "timereddit" timeline, a la Facebook's, allows a user to see Reddit postings from the past, present, or future.
"Have you ever wondered what the popular memes were" in the late Cretaceous Period?, the site asked. But, Reddit warned, "besides being a violation of intergalactic law, exposing past peoples to knowledge from the future can be extremely dangerous."
Toshiba pushed Shapes, a new line of tablets with shapes -- a circle, a rhombus, a heart -- intended to match users' personalities. Microsoft's Bing announced that its Bingbot software is writing a tell-all memoir about everything the search engine has seen.
There were also random ads on Hulu with tongue twisters and other incongruous audio, and YouTube offered to give users DVD access to every video the site has hosted since 2005 -- delivered to your door via 175 trucks.