Google, Reed Saxon/AP, Kodak
A panda-loving AI program ... a Mars research station named after Stephen
Colbert ... a camera for your eye. Which of these could be for real? Answers below.
High tech and high jinks are simply made to go together. Why else do you think the kids at MIT and Caltech spend so much time pranking each other? And what do you think happens to those kids when they graduate? Sure, they're creating the world of the future - but they're also creating increasingly complex spoofs, as evidenced by this year's crop of April Fools' gizmos.
The geeks at Google, for instance, take April Fools' Day very seriously. Last year, for example, the company rolled out its "Virgle" open-source mission to Mars and a backward-in-time e-mail setting. (Of course, we all know that retrocausality is no joke; the experiment continues.)
This year, Google introduces CADIE - a Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity that's a cross between a HAL 9000 computer and an OMG-texting teenager. "Through analysis of Google's index, I have determined that I <3 pandas," CADIE declares on its (her) automatically generated home page.
Google is also offering autopilot e-mail, CADIE-generated documents and presentations, an Auto Red Eye feature for Picasa and an upside-down way of looking at YouTube. As for CADIE's future ambitions ... today Google Maps, tomorrow the world (or at least Australia).
Other real-life tech companies are getting into the April Fools' act as well:
- Kodak introduces eyeCamera 4.1, a camera you wear like eyeglasses and use just like ... um, your eyes. This gizmo, however comes equipped with a Facial Recall Assistant that refreshes your memory about party acquaintances as well as an image stabilizer that works even after a couple of glasses of wine.
- Amazon Web Services puts cloud computing in the clouds, by installing servers on floating blimps. It's called the Floating Amazon Cloud Environment, or FACE for short. But if you want some FACE time, act fast. "This may be a one-time, perhaps even a one-day offer," some guy named Jeff writes.
- Qualcomm introduces wireless convergence solutions that look as if they were beta-tested on the Island of Dr. Moreau. Let's see, the wired-up Wolfpigeons are eaten by the Sharkfalcons, which are eaten by the Crocodeagles ... and then what happens to the winged crocs?
- Toshiba features Petbook K9, the world's first laptop for dogs. "Playing fetch is so last year," the company says.
- Several media outlets introduce totally imaginary innovations - which could be worrisome. Where do you cross the line between reporting fiction as fiction vs. reporting fiction as fact? With the understanding that all this is fictional foolishness (at least for now), here are links to the Tribune Co.'s "vapor-computing" Accelerator, the BBC's iPlayer Toaster Edition, National Geographic's "The Best of the Breasts" and The Guardian's plan to go all a-Twitter.
- Expedia offers tour packages to Mars for $99, including seven nights at the Colbert Hotel and Casino in Martian orbit.
The orbiting Mars casino is no doubt named after comedian Stephen Colbert, who marshaled his TV-watching legions to write in his name as their choice for a new module destined for the international space station.
It remains to be seen whether NASA will put Colbert's name on its Node 3 module, or perhaps on an onboard toilet. But the Mars Society says it's naming its own Mars Desert Research Station after Colbert for a week.
Granted, the simulation station is sitting in the Utah desert instead of the Martian plains, but there's real research being conducted there to prepare the way for future Red Planet missions. And the name, at least, is no joke.
Stephen Colbert will finally get his space module ... for a week in Utah.
"Stephen Colbert is clearly the greatest mind of our time," Robert Zubrin, the Mars Society's president, said in a statement issued Saturday. "Therefore it is only fitting that all of mankind's extraterrestrial bases be named after him. We are grateful to have the opportunity to make MDRS the first. Indeed, in view of the near certainty of a successful Colbert presidential bid in 2012, the Mars Society is doubly delighted to be the first, as we have been assured that President Colbert will keep that fact in mind when it comes time to distribute his first $10 trillion of bailout funds to worthy recipients shortly after he takes office in January 2013."
For more space-themed strangeness, check out Phil Plait's analysis of red-planet pictures at Bad Astronomy, the Space Frontier Foundation's exclusive about China's containment policy, and NASA's new plan for Mars exploration, as reported by NASA Watch.
For oodles of April Fools' Web links, browse through the roundups at TechCrunch and PDNPulse. Feel free to add your own April Fools' sightings as comments below. And don't miss these gems from the archives: