You probably know this already, but today is April Fools' Day.
And the pranks, they are a-comin'. This year's batch of springtime hijinks from the greater tech community includes the usual onslaught from Google, along with notable entrants from Nokia, Sony, and others. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights.
While it waits for its Lumia smartphones to build up a head of steam, Nokia is showing off a touch-screen microwave oven, the Nokia 5AM-TH1N6 Constellation, which features a Window Phone-like interface ("which can be operated with oven mitts"). Not to be outdone by Samsung Galaxy S4, this hottie packs its own eye-tracking technology, which Nokia says "stops the food from rotating when you look at it, and it automatically adjusts the temperature depending on how hungry you look."
Twitter has apparently drawn inspiration from Wheel of Fortune for its April Fools' prank, Twttr, the lower rung on a jokey two-tiered service. With the no-cost Twttr, you get only consonants, plus that shifty letter Y. Want vowels? That'll cost you $5 a month. And for when 140 characters isn't quite enough, you can get one more -- but only one more -- in a Scrabble-like value system: "The price of the extra character is based on a bidding system reflecting the popularity of the character you would like to add."
With Google on April Fools' Day, where does one begin? Perhaps, as is advisable whenever a possible prank appears, with a smell test -- and that would be a dead giveaway when it comes to Google Nose, all 15M+ scentibytes of it. And what's this? No more YouTube? Well, if you believed that one, Google's got a pirate treasure map for you. Plus: Emoticons for your photos and home renovations a la Street View.
Google also got in a playful jab at Microsoft and Windows Blue with its Gmail Blue spoof, while Microsoft returned the favor with a Bing zinger.
The folks at iFixit are known for providing clear-eyed looks at the innards of gadgets from the Apple iPad to the BlackBerry Z10. Claiming that they've been accused of "favoring one fruit over all the rest," today they pulled apart the other part of the apple vs. orange equation. "Though the Orange's repairability is highly questionable," they wrote, "we do admire its end-of-life design. It is completely recyclable, compostable, and delicious-able."
The long-rumored iWatch has been a tempting and tasty tech topic of late. While we're waiting for Apple to eventually show us the real thing -- if it really is really real -- TechCrunch thought it would be fun to imagine the iWatch as a ... watchband for the iDevice of your choosing, no matter how large.
For trendy wearable tech you can wear today, there's Google Glass, of course. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper put a proprietary bit of, um, English on high-tech eyewear: "The motion-sensitive spectacles, known as Guardian Goggles, incorporate translucent screens in the lenses, overlaying the wearer's view of their surroundings with a real-time stream of specially curated opinions from the paper's reporters, critics and commentators. For example, simply by looking at the outside of a restaurant or cinema and pointing, the user can call up relevant Guardian reviews of the food or current films."
Who says digital is the only way to go? Even the data-driven crowd at Wolfram Alpha, it seems, has a thing for penmanship, touting the Handwritten Knowledge Engine. "Artisanal answers, if you will," they say. But time may already be running short. "A few of the physicists already have writer's cramp, and the pop culture researchers might be next."
The new age of Web programming need not leave 1980s technology behind. For WebKit, the browser engine behind Chrome and Safari, Alexis Menard announced he's working on a patch to support VHS videocassette recorders. Too bad Internet Explorer is building in support for Betamax.
Netflix reportedly has offered up some unexpected movie categories, from "Epic Nicholas Cage Meltdown" (too-easy punch line: wait, that's every Nicholas Cage movie) to "Surreal Ballets Based on a William Shatner Album" to "When You Watch Netflix, It Watches You." (Via Salon.)
Also of note:
Sony Animalia: Tech gear for pets.
Virgin Atlantic: The glass-bottomed plane.
Samsung Electronics: Smart Eco tree, "eco-friendly air purifier that runs on solar energy."
ThinkGeek: Play-Doh 3D printer.