There was Gmail Paper, with its "96 percent post-consumer organic soybean sputum," and Project Virgle, with its promise of "the first permanent human colony on Mars." And in 2013, there was the Google Wallet Mobile ATM, a smart little device that "easily attaches to most smartphones and dispenses money instantly and effortlessly."
In 2014, one of the most high-profile gags involves Pokémon, the massively popular video game franchise. In an impressively high-quality video posted yesterday, Google took the wraps off the Pokémon Challenge – a race to capture a bunch of little monsters from far-flung hideouts around the globe. The winner, Google says, will receive the position of Pokémon Master.
"It's always been important to us to have the most qualified employees at Google," Google exec Brian McClendon says in the video (with an admirably straight face). "Now using the technology created by the Google Maps team, we've prepared the most rigorous test known to man to find the world's best Pokemon Master."
And herein the root of the aforementioned hoax. Because although the video promises an augmented-reality, action-packed cliffhanger of a monster hunt – starring you – the real Pokémon Challenge is a mini-game layered on top of the Google Maps interface.
And no, there's no actual Pokémon Master gig.
Which isn't to say it doesn't look fun. Assuming you've got the latest version of Google Maps on Android or iOS, you can get started here.