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Search campfire smells with Google Nose, post vowel-free tweets with Twttr

A look at tech companies' fictitious products, and playful jabs, on April Fools' Day

Spring is in the air, and Google wants its users to be able to search for it and smell it, literally.

On Monday, April Fools' Day, the company launched Nose, a new "olfactory knowledge feature" allowing people to search for smells.

"In the fast paced world that we live in, we don't always have time to stop and smell the roses," Google product manager Jon Wooly said in a video describing the search tool. "Now, with Google Nose beta, the roses are just a click away."

With the company's database of 15 million "scentibytes," users can search for anything from fresh-baked bread to "wet dog" or "campfire," and then take a whiff just by leaning in toward their computer. Android smartphones can detect smells, meanwhile, just by waving the device around the actual object.

The company employed "Street Sense" vehicles to inhale and index millions of atmospheric miles to gather the data, Google said.

Google Nose, of course, is not real, though it joins several other fictitious, humorous product rollouts in honor of April Fools' Day.

Twitter, for instance, announced it is shifting to a two-tiered service. The basic version of the site is now Twttr, which eliminates vowels to encourage a more efficient and "dense" form of communication, the microblogging site said. People can try out Twttr here with a tool that automatically transforms Tweets into a Twttr-friendly format.

President Obama's tweet on Nov. 6, 2012, for instance, the most retweeted Tweet of all time, would appear as "Fr mr yrs" in the new Twttr, the company said.

The letter "Y" will always be free to everyone, as well as vowels in URLs, Twitter said.

People are being invited to practice the new form of tweeting with the hashtag #nvwls. A slew of tweets composed in the new format were being posted to the site throughout Monday morning.

"Ww ths s rlly mch mr ffcnt mns f cmmnctn wth ppl sn't t?" one person said.

Users can opt to pay US$5 a month for the "premium" version of Twitter, which includes vowels and gives people free reign over how they compose their tweets.

Tech companies also used the day to take swipes at competitors' products. Microsoft's Bing search engine, for example, has been transformed into a new stripped-down look over a solid white background, just like Google's homepage. Under the search bar are two lone buttons, one labeled "Search" and the other marked "I'm feeling confused." Clicking the second button directs users to a page of results related to April Fools' Day.

Google, meanwhile, in a playful jab at Microsoft's not-yet-released Windows Blue operating system, also unveiled Gmail Blue. The email service is a redesigned version of Gmail basically just built around the color blue.

"It's Gmail, only bluer," Google project manager Richard Pargo said in a fake promo video.

"In trying to bring email into the 21st century, we are faced with the challenge, how do we completely redesign and recreate something while keeping it exactly the same?" he said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com


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