As far as multi-national, hugely powerful tech companies go, Google has never been afraid to show its lighter side.
Google Doodles are perhaps the most high-profile example of the search engine giant’s more playful work, but Google also has a long running association with April Fools’ Day. In the spirit of the most unreliable news day of the year, we’ve listed five of the company’s best pranks below.
Google didn’t wait long before it started playing jokes on its users. The company, which was founded in 1998, issued its first April Fools’ Day prank in 2000 with Google MentalPlex.
MentalPlex was capable of reading the user’s mind in order to determine what they wanted to search for, eliminating the need for all that stone-age typing business. Users were told to keep their head still while staring at the MentalPlex circle and to simply visualise their search term.
However, the MentalPlex hoax didn’t stop there as users were often treated to a humorous error message. These included: “Brainwaves received in analog. Please re-think in digital,” and “Insufficient conviction. Please clap hands 3 times, while chanting 'I believe' and try again.”
Anyone wishing to give MentalPlex a try can still do so here.
Google has entered the search engine business, the autonomous car business and many others, but so far it hasn’t ventured into the food and drink market.
However, back in 2005, the launch of Google Gulp suggested that no industry was safe from the company’s dominance. Google claimed that the beverage could optimise search engine results by improving the drinker’s intelligence. The drink came in four flavours, Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta Carroty, and Sero-Tonic Water and was completely free-of-charge.
However, the drink could only be acquired by returning the cap of a Google Gulp bottle, making it impossible to obtain. This was widely seen as a jibe at the firm’s own Gmail service, which at the time was invite-only, proving that Google doesn’t mind poking fun at itself too.
Gmail Motion was unveiled in 2011 as a way to improve upon Google’s email service using motion gestures. Your computer webcam and a spatial tracking algorithm allowed the "language of movements” to replace typing entirely.
Command gestures included pretending to open an envelope, pointing backwards over your shoulder to reply and pointing both thumbs to reply to all.
Google was pretty up front about this hoax, however, explaining in the Gmail Motion FAQ that the service "doesn't actually exist,” but the company did plug a similarly bogus service, Google Docs Motion.
Nest’s Total Temperature Control
Google doesn’t just restrict its pranks to its core brand, and following the acquisition of Nest last year, the home automation company also got in on the act.
Teaming up with Virgin America, Nest showcased its “Total Temperature Control” system, which allows every single passenger onboard a flight to set their own temperature. The personal thermostat comes with a number of outlandishly named presets such as Cancun Afternoon and Chicago Polar Vortex, but there’s no denying that this would be a welcome addition to long haul flights, if only it was real.
Google Maps Pokémon Challenge
Last year, Google issued a whole host of April Fools’ Day pranks, buy one of the most popular was the Google Maps Pokémon Challenge.
Using your iPhone or Android handset, individuals simply open the Google Maps app and click the “Press Start” feature next to the blue Pokéball. The accompanying video indicates that searching for Pokémon is similar to an augmented reality game, and also promises that the most successful gamer will be awarded the position of Pokémon Master at Google.
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Unfortunately for all the would-be Ash Ketchums out there, Google also revealed that the “role of Pokémon Master is not yet available,” crushing the dreams of millions.