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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Google’s April Fools 2009

Today is prank day on and offline, and Google is joining with several hoaxes. I may update this post as new info comes in.


The common theme this year is CADIE, short for Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity. I also saw it linked from, though not at the moment. Google writes, “For several years now a small research group has been working on some challenging problems in the areas of neural networking, natural language and autonomous problem-solving. Last fall this group achieved a significant breakthrough: a powerful new technique for solving reinforcement learning problems, resulting in the first functional global-scale neuro-evolutionary learning cluster.” Google elsewhere writes, “while we still think of CADIE as a young entity, we are convinced now that she has evolved her own ’strong AI’ presence. We continue to conduct tests, but increasingly, we conduct long conversations with her, acutely aware that our creation will raise many ethical questions on the part of the public.”

Cadie’s homepage is hosted with Blogger, full of background music, poke the panda ads, and rainbows. There’s also a “Panda Map landing page”. Cadie also has an auto-reply if you write to, and she shows her face on Knol. At Google Books, Cadie recommends several books on topics like neural networks and language processing. (Google Books also shows a link to right of book previews reading “Generate book report” – clicking it shows the message “Gotcha! It’s April Fools’ Day! Sorry, but you’ll have to actually read the book yourself.”)

The Google image search homepage also features Cadie. Google Docs integrates Cadie as a sort of intelligent auto-completion... for Google Presentations, Cadie can insert subliminal messages in your slides to help you make a “really effective sales pitch” and in case you want your boss to know “your idea is the best without knowing why he knows it”. In Google Maps Street View, Cadie replaced pegman. Cadie is also sitting on the Google Pack page. And Google Analytics analyzes some of the Cadie traffic.

Cadie is also available as a program – can anyone run this? The language is called Intercal, if I understand it right. Also, the Google Code hosted Cadie tries to answer your programming questions.

Checking the HTTP header for today, you will find it’s run by “ELIZA”, “WOPR”, “IIS/3.0”, “Google Operating System (BETA)” or similar... perhaps depending on the time you’re checking. (WOPR is a reference to the movie War Games, and Eliza is one of the most famous examples of an AI/ pseudo-AI communicating in something resembling human form).


Google China has released a Google pigeon watch specification, which also references Cadie. The Google pigeon is also placed on a map and appearing on a mobile page. I’m not exactly sure what the pigeons do – see the somewhat garbled auto-translation – but apparently they’re information collectors, and feature a “Wireless rechargeable foot ring ... full of power 16 hours of work.” You are supposed to shout “goo goo goo” into the microphone, and Google will show information from the neighborhood (“gu gu gu” is “咕咕咕”, what birds sing in Chinese).


In Japan, a Cadie page is also linked from the homepage, and Cadie appears in certain search results. I’m not exactly sure what she does there, but it seems to be related to humorous poems.

Also in Japan, Google Maps advisor Gachapin appears.


Google Australia brings us the GBall. The explanation from their GBall page: “Building on our core strength in search, Google was approached by a number of Australian rules football leagues to apply our technology in their search for new talent. In response, Google, in partnership with the official supplier of matchballs to the AFL, Sherrin, has developed the gBall. Incorporating specially developed Google technology, it will be used in all school and amateur competitions – and will go on sale to the public – this weekend.”


Google-owned YouTube flips their videos upside down today part of a “New Viewing Experience”. YouTube suggests you turn “your monitor upside-down” as their internal tests have shown “that modern computer monitors give a higher quality picture” this way. Just append a “&flip=1” parameter to a YouTube video page URL, and the video and other parts of the page will be flipped. (Videos linked from the YouTube homepage also use the flip-parameter today.) The flipping parameter does not work with all videos, but it works with most.


Google Chrome is now available with a feature that brings you the web in 3D. You are required to print special 3D glasses and then hit a 3D button in the button bar of a special Chrome 3D browser which you need to install for this purpose... not kidding, this really converts any web page into something that looks like a 3D color scheme, though as I don’t have 3D glasses near-by I don’t know how well this looks (your comments are welcome on this). Note before launching chromesetup_3d.exe you will need to uninstall Chrome first if you’re not on a stable Chrome version channel.


Google Code Search has a special syntax to search for lolcode only. Just use lang:lolcode when searching for something, and you’ll get lots of OM NOM NOM. The Google Code Search homepage is full of other lolcat-related examples.


For cell phones, Google offers mobile brain search. “Using our new CADIE technology, we can now index the content of your brain to make it searchable, thus bringing you aided retrieval of memories,” Google writes. You can give it a try yourself.


Gmail today offers an “Autopilot” feature. This will analyze the received message, and automatically prepare a reply, mirroring your own communication style.


Google Earth, too, has a special CADIE page. The description says the “new CADIE-powered Google Earth enables you to ... See ocean terrain imagery from the world’s most advanced sub” and “Be among the first human entities to explore the deep sea”.


Not sure if this is April Fool’s related, but Google Russia and Google Ukraine are honoring the birthday of writer Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol with a special doodle.


Google’s image album software Picasa now comes with a special “Auto Red Eye” functionality for version 4.1 (it turns normal eyes into red eyes). I was only able to see this on the Picasa homepage when using a US proxy.

Elsewhere, the Google App Engine now supports Fortran 77. You can send your punch cards to the Google headquarters.


Ionut Alex. Chitu is joining with a joke on his Google watch blog, reporting that now offers you buttons to search with Yahoo and Microsoft Live. “The main goal of the new features is to accelerate the innovation in search and to add variety to Google’s monotonous homepage. Since the competition will be one click away, even the users who believed that Google is synonymous with web search will discover two alternative search engines.”

Image finder TinEye on their homepage prints that they’ve acquired Google Images. Search engine Quintura is showing a Google-colored “Quintoora” logo. Ford and GM announce an Android car, and Google is rumored to acquire Palm. The German GoogleWatchBlog has turned into YahooWatchBlog today. Gizmotastic covers the Google News Drone, and Google South Africa opens a theme partk. Google Maps Mania has news of the Queen’s Corgi Tracker app.

[Thanks to all who join the April Fool’s thread, send emails, or posted info elsewhere! Thanks Tony, Luka, JEShack,, Jitendra, Andy, Domisto, Yakov, DeWitt, Matt, Jérémy, TechCrunch, Ionut, Hebbet and DPic!]


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