April Fools’ Day 2016: Gmail mic drop prank goes sour, Bing’s dancing puffins & more
Google wasted no time getting into the April Fools' Day spirit, making a number of fake announcements before the day even started.
It wasn’t even April 1, but being the overachievers they are, Google had already started releasing its April Fools’ Day announcements.
Starting yesterday, we spotted a disco-clad pegman on Google Maps, a Google sock-finding app on Google’s Australia blog, and a new “Flick” keyboard from Google Japan. There were also two Gmail hacks that rolled out: an emoji-powered smart reply feature and a “Send + Mic Drop” option.
The Gmail mic drop feature had a number of users up in arms after they unwittingly inserted a mic-dropping Minion gif into emails. By this morning, Google had disabled the prank and apologized for causing more headaches than laughs.
Bing has opted to stay away from controversy-causing pranks so far, taking a cute approach to April Fools’ Day with dancing puffins featured on its homepage.
You can see a rundown of April Fools’ announcements from Google, Bing and other April Fools’ perpetrators below. As more shenanigans happen, we’ll update this story to include whatever we find.
Google’s disco pegman
While the Google Maps pegman may or may not be dressed to disco, he definitely is sporting a beard and purple suit with retro butterfly-collars — a much cooler pegman for April Fools’ Day, versus the square that usually shows up for Street View images.
Google Japan Flick Keyboard
Google Japan went all out to develop the Flick bluetooth keyboard — a device that mimics the comfort of striking the keys on a PC keyboard that can be used on any surface.
“We thought again about the ‘Flick’ keyboard and realized it could be really useful. There’s just something missing when you’re swiping across a smooth flat screen,” says the narrator in the Google Flick YouTube video.
The Q&A portion of the announcement didn’t specify a release date but did confirm it would be available in blue, red, black, white, and eventually, “tea” colored.
Here’s the YouTube video showing how it works:
Google Australia Searchable Socks & App
Google Australia engineers were slightly less ambitious, creating an app to help you find missing socks. According to the Google Australia blog, the Bluetooth-enabled Searchable Socks are lined with thin LTE beacon straps.
“If you can’t find one sock, you can press the beacon on its pair and let the Google Search app on your phone pinpoint its whereabouts,” says the announcement on the Google Australia blog.
Gmail Mic Drop
Update: According to TechCruch, Gmail’s April Fools’ Mic Drop prank had to be disabled after a number of Gmail users inadvertently inserted the mic-dropping Minion gif into emails and muted email threads.
The Gmail Blog announcement for the Mic Drop feature has been updated since yesterday, confirming Google has terminated the prank:
Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. ? Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.
When it was working, Gmail’s Mic Drop feature let you have the last word in any email thread with just a click of the “Send + Mic Drop” button.
According to the Gmail Blog, the new feature would include a mic-dropping Minion GIF to shut down the conversation, and then mute any further emails in the thread.
“Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond you won’t see it,” says Gmail — which really would be a dream come true for anyone who has suffered through a never-ending email thread.
Gmail Emoji Smart Reply
Gmail also launched an Emoji Smart Reply feature for April Fools’ game-day — taking the “deep neural network” powering Gmail’s Smart Reply and making it more sassy via emoji.
Instead of sending an automatic text response to an email, the Emoji Smart Reply will suggest the perfect tiny icon to translate whatever it is you want to say.
“In our testing, we’ve also found that emoji do a better job of plumbing the emotional depths of one’s soul, so we’re optimistic that today’s update will encourage more open and honest email conversations,” reads the announcement on the Gmail Blog.
Google confirmed that the more you use your emoji smart reply, the better it will get at choosing just the right emoji for you.
Bing’s Dancing Puffins
Keeping in line with its cute-theme from last year, Bing is featuring two dancing puffins on its homepage today.
Users can select four different musical selections for the puffins, starting with Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive.” There’s a country/bluegrass theme composition, electro-music and a Mariachi tune. The homepage includes a control to pause what’s playing, and sharing icons to post the homepage image on Twitter or Facebook.
Bing also lets you download the image if you want it for your wallpaper.
Here is a video our news editor Barry Schwartz created, showing Bing’s puffins in action:
Google Tag Manager for Real World Tags
What SEO doesn’t love a good April Fools’ gag? Google’s tag manager for “real world” tags is designed to help you organize and manage everything, from your vinyl albums to marine life and more.
“Google Tag Manager for real world tags seeks to automagically inventory, categorize and help manage your real world tags no matter what variety they are,” says Google in its announcement on the Google Analytics Blog.
Once an item has been “tagged” with Google’s real world tags, it can be monitored via the Real World Tag Dashboard either on a mobile device or from your PC.
Google said its Real World Tags will be released in the coming weeks, with 10,000 physical tags sent to everyone who registers.
YouTube “SnoopaVision” Mode
YouTube’s April Fools’ prank makes it possible to watch any video in 360…with Snoop Dog.
This one is pretty great – from the video featuring Snoop Dog explaining how involved he was on the project (“I coded the hell out of this software to get me up in there”), to the Snoop Dog-inspired icon that launches videos in “SnoopaVision” mode.
Here’s the video with Snoop and the YouTube team explaining the new feature:
Google #SearchWithEmojis Photo Search
Between the Gmail Emoji Smart Reply and now the Google Photos #SearchWithEmojis, it appears Google has gone emoji-mad for April Fools’ Day.
A post on the Google Photos Google+ page – written mostly in emoji – claims that you can now do a photo search simply by inputting an emoji in the search field.
“Finding your pics is a ☮️ of ?.”
Here’s a video to show how it works (for real):
The Very Large Mobile Page Accelerator
Not to be left out of the fun, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project team posted their own April Fools’ announcement, giving a behind the scenes look its VLMPA – the very large mobile page accelerator.
According to the announcement, the VLMPA appears to be the Internet’s version of the Hadron Collider.
Defined as, “…a massive and specialized machine for exploring the mysterious article physics of the mobile information space,” the team claims VLMPA brings them closer to answering some of the most burning questions about web technology, “…including insights into the lo-on, a hypothetical particle believed to have existed only briefly in the moments after the web itself was born.”
Here’s a photo taken from the inside of the VLMPA:
Beyond the Haldron Collider play, and obvious irony of making something exceptionally large to manage what Google is trying to optimize for small devices, the joke was mostly lost on me, but I’m sure Sheldon Cooper would love it.
Google Cardboard Plastic
What April Fools’ Day would be complete without a virtual reality gag? Google’s Cardboard Plastic takes its Cardboard VR device and makes it plastic to create a “real-world immersion” experience.
This one would probably be more funny to me if it weren’t for the existential sadness it elicits – mocking the fact that we should be taking in the world without mobile phones and our Cardboard – or any other VR – devices.
“What’s realer than real?” asks the Google Cardboard Plastic video narrator, answering his own question, “Probably nothing.”
Google Play Goes to Space
The Android Developer Blog took its April Fools’ joke to an Interstellar-level with the announcement that new features have been added to the Google Play Developer Console, “…to help you design, test, and distribute your apps and games in space.”
The team brought “The Guardian” in on the joke, putting together a video of how the UK’s news app helps space-travelers keep up with the latest happenings back on earth.
Not only did it create a video, but the Android Developer team also added the following “Interplanetary Distribution” option to the Google Play Developer Console – note Pluto has been removed.
Moz Introduces UpDog
While cats have always been the darlings of internet, Moz is creating a space for man’s best friend. The Moz UpDog initiative is a company-wide effort, “…to bring the benefits of human social media marketing to the canine world.”
The UpDog initiative includes a WiFi connected “Bark-Activated InstaShot Pro” camera that lets your dog take selfies that can then be shared on social networks.
Along with the camera designed for dog-selfies, Moz also announced a Followerwonk dashboard to track engagement on your dog’s social media posts, a Moz Local feature to see what’s driving traffic to “favorite park benches, fire hydrants, and light poles,” and a Moz content tool designed by Moz’s Bark Translation Team.
Google Express Delivery by Parachute
For April Fools’ Day, Google Express announced it would be using parachutes now to deliver orders.
“Drone technology is exciting, but it’s not ready,” says the (alleged) Aerodynamics Consultant from today’s Google Express April Fools’ video.
But how do they get the parachutes in the air? Drones, of course:
Google Cloud Vision API’s Style Detection Feature
Google’s Cloud Vision API – which is a real thing that uses machine learning to determine content in an image – has a new Style Detection feature, which is an April Fools’ Day thing that Google says can help improve a user’s personal style choices.
“Across our training corpus, we were able to detect the majority of personal style choices and glean with 52-97% accuracy not just what people were wearing, but what those clothes might say about them.”
Here’s a video explaining how the Style Detection feature imagines fashion based on data, not feelings (narrated by a Googler wearing a “Larry & Sergey & Eric & Sundar” t-shirt…which now, I do kind of want).
McDonald’s, T-Mobile & Southwest Airlines Join the April Fools’ Day Fray
While Google may have cornered the April Fools’ Day market, brands are also having fun.
T-Mobile rolled out a “Binge On Up” hands-free device that lets users continue to watch videos on their mobile devices no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
“Binge on Up is yet another disruptive Un-carrier move to free customers from the old rules of a broken, arrogant wireless industry…you don’t have to choose, and can enjoy non-stop streaming every waking second,” reads T-Mobile’s April Fools’ Day news release which included the following image:
McDonald’s announced it was launching a line of monthly subscription box services, including The Artisan, The Ribster, and The Minimalist box.
Playing off of the Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab” game show, Southwest Airlines claims it has launched the inflight game show “Cash Lav” that surprises travelers using the in-flight lavatory.