April Fool's Day press releases: sublime futurism?

06 Apr 2016

As de facto editor of Future Television Asia, I scan a lot of press releases. Some have bits of information, a few are entirely useful, and most aren't of interest.

But then along comes April Fools' Day – not a new phenomenon. Wikipedia says: "Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (1392) contains the first recorded association between 1 April and foolishness."

Foolishness indeed. At its best, AFD is an opportunity to satirize or lampoon popular culture, media and any other current events.

The faux-holiday can create some delicious synergy. In 2013, print-newspaper The Macau Post Daily fooled more than a few with a fake story about a forthcoming Rolling Stones concert in Macau. The next year, the Stones actually played Macau – life imitating a clever prank.

But for a busy editor trawling through sheaves of press releases, AFD is a pain. Some legit press releases frankly read like satire, so anything dated "April 01" is automatically suspect.

Fortunately, this year, a zinger came in from an unlikely source.

Weld your eyeballs to your social networks!
Like any good prank, this one combines more than one "hot-button" topic to boost its prankishness.

Dated "Apr 01, 2016, 00:01 ET," Verizon announced their latest gizmo: "OccuCam." Described as "an exciting new wearable video camera that will connect consumers' eyes directly to their social networks," Verizon promised "friends and family will see what YOU see, every second of every day."

The product of "revolutionary nanotechnology [that] will be embedded into contact lenses," the concept satirizes the obsessional nature of social media...but then takes it to the next level with fake-quotes clearly scribed by those who write legit releases for a living. To wit, this bit of gushery attributed to "Iris Winker, VP-Eye Solutions": "Soon, everyone will be able to see what everyone else is doing, all the time!"

"What's next?" asked Ms. Winker. "Next, we'll deliver technology that listens to your thoughts and shares them immediately to everyone you know, unfiltered and unaltered — providing the utmost transparency in how human beings relate with each other."

Kooky technology
The Verizon PR folks then sharpened their prank with material all-too-familiar to heavy users of social media. Among their "series of new apps will compile data in real time": "Cat Watch — Kooky technology instantly recognizes every time a cat comes into view and instantly blasts it directly to all your social channels, so everyone you know can marvel at the cat's hilarious antics."

Even kookier: "Cheat-ID," an infernal app which "knows when you've been looking at an attractive individual just a tad too long, whether they're a coworker, an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend from high school, or even the hot server at the fast-food drive through. Wandering eye? Cheat-ID will automatically alert your spouse or significant other about the potential for trouble."

The potential for trouble seems unlimited. Fortunately, this is a spoof. Unfortunately, some of the actual technology released for video-connection to social networks over the next few years may veer a bit too closely to eyeball-searing cat antics and always-on jealousy potentiometers.

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