The line between real tech news and the stuff of April Fools’ Day jokes is getting thinner. Two new gag posts, one each from Google and Amazon, play on consumers’ desire for connected homes, but also some latent anxieties about how much our gadgets know about us and over who’s really in charge.
Exhibit A is a video starring the Google Gnome, an outdoors adjunct to the Google Home connected speaker that consumers use to check the weather, play music, and look stuff up—all via voice command. A riff on kitschy garden gnomes, Google’s connected imp performs tasks upon verbal commands like turning a hose on or off, which when you think about it, could come in pretty handy.
It also shows a penchant for passive-aggression when it chastises its owner for asking it to do an indoor task that is outside its purview: “You do keep doing that.”
The best bit is when the man of the house asks Google Gnome if the cup he’s holding is compost or trash. “We are really all compost if you think about it,” says Gnomey gloomily.
Exhibit B is Amazon Petlexa, a pet-focused version of the Amazon Echo device and Alexa speech recognition. Petlexa updates a Fitbit-wearing hamster about its step count on the spinning wheel, and lets a purring cat order a sushi platter. It also enables Fido to order up some balls to fetch, with predictable, if unintended consequences.
Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) aren’t kidding about their fight to entrench their smart devices in consumers’ homes to perform simple tasks like
The real joke here is that most of the scenarios in the videos are pretty close to possible.