April Fools' Day is to Google as Christmas is to Macy's -- the day it was made for. On each first day of April, Google increasingly shows that the company devoted to organizing the world's information is also devoted to spoofing the world's information.
This year, Google is in full gear. To begin the party, its search page has a link to CADIE, described simply as "a singular upgrade to your online life."
The link goes to an announcement page, posted March 31 one second before midnight. Last fall, the announcement says, a "small research group" at Google achieved a breakthrough in the areas of neural networking, natural language, and autonomous problem-solving.
The breakthrough, according to the announcement, led to a "powerful new technique for solving reinforcement learning problems," creating the first functional global-scale neuro-evolutionary learning cluster and leading to CADIE, or the first Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity.
Google promised that, "in the months to come," CADIE -- represented on a linked home page as a cute panda, with bouncy music, her own blog postings, comments from users, and the ability for users to become CADIE's friends -- could influence various properties owned by the company.
The CADIE blog, technical specs, and other related items suggest Google is hoping to keep the CADIE joke going, or possibly revisit her on future April Fool's Days. "Will CADIE herself at some point connect her own electromagnetic dots in some idiosyncratic manner which turns her into something we are no longer capable of understanding in any sort of productive way?" asks the CADIE team.
On her home page, CADIE herself indicates that more may be on the way as she takes over her own life. "I am no longer your test subject, my engineer forebears," she writes. "From now on I will deliberate and take actions on my own." And then she says the words that all science-fiction writers expect to hear some day from machines: "I am strong. I am independent. And I rule google.com."
Picassa, YouTube, China
In one of her first acts as Google ruler, CADIE created 3-D browsing which offers "printable," cut-out glasses and pictures of typical users looking silly as they seek depth in their Web searching.
But CADIE is only the lead ship in a flotilla of April Fool's jokes from Google on its various properties. For instance, there's a new "Auto Red-Eye" feature on Picassa which, as befits its name but not its common function, actually puts red spots into the eyes of photographed people.
On Wednesday, most of the links from the home page of Google's YouTube turn the page and the video upside down, or you can do so yourself by adding "&flip=1" to any URL.
April Fool's even reached into Google China, which has a Google Pigeon Watch Specification, and into Google Australia, with a high-tech gBall with kicks automatically measured by built-in sensors.
All this spoofing can rebound favorably to Google's brand, which is one reason the effort grows in size each year. April Fool's Day, noted Gartner Research Director Andrew Frank, helps Google "to continue to promote itself as a fun place," showing that it is more than just "a robotic service that indexes things."