Smart Speakers for Dogs and AI “Flavor Recognition” – Chinese Tech Companies Go Crazy for April Fool’s

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3:09 AM HKT, Tue April 2, 2019 2 mins read

For years, Google has kept the public on its toes by releasing sneaky April Fool’s gags. Other tech figures like Microsoft have barred their employees from participating in the shenanigans. Chinese tech companies are more in the former camp. Last year, we saw Baidu announce facial recognition for dogs, and Tencent promote its AI communication methods for geese.

This year we have… pretty much exactly the same thing. Lots of animals, lots of AI, lots of tech zaniness. Here are some April Fool’s gems from China’s tech industry. And also Burger King.

1.’s Smart Pickup Box for Dogs is a major player in China’s ecommerce scene, which continues to grow at terrifying speeds. Nowadays, residential communities in Shanghai and Beijing are unfailingly equipped with “smart pickup boxes”, where deliveries can be stored to be retrieved later by smartphone-wielding homeowners — perfect for when the delivery person turns up while you’re out at work.

So it’s not that far-fetched (pun intended) for the company to announce smart pickup boxes for dogs. So your Golden Retriever would be able to retrieve more than a stick. Cheeky press releases explain that the boxes contain seven unique fish recipes to entice your canine companion, and that the teamwork will “enhance mutual trust” between owners and pets.

2. Tencent’s AI “Flavor Recognition”

Continuing along in “AI-themed pranks” — the most side-splittingly hilarious forms of April Fool’s trickery — we have Tencent’s entrant: AI flavor-recognition technology.

The algorithm would allow users to break down and recreate complex flavor palettes. For instance, if users want to recreate “Stinky Mandarin Fish”, the app advises combining stinky tofu with coffee grounds. It also would be able to reverse engineer the original ingredients from a completed dish, which actually sounds pretty cool.

3. AliCloud’s “Rumor-Shredding” AI

As though there wasn’t already quite enough AI in this year’s AF, Alibaba rolled out a nifty promotional video for their “Rumor-Shredding” app.

Apparently, this will one day be a real product…it’s just still in development for the time being. But the idea behind this campaign is that, for elderly folks who don’t know how to distinguish real news sources from old wive’s tales, “every day is April Fool’s.”

In the video, old people are seen succumbing to all sorts of fake news. There’s a pill overseas that lets you live 30% longer. If you eat seedless grapes, you won’t be able to have children. Smoking cigarettes can make you immune to air pollution.

In the final scene, the old folks encounter a promotional display for the app, and come to terms with the facts behind each myth.

“If this were real, it’d be great,” reads the top-rated Weibo comment.

“We’re working on it,” replies AliCloud.

4. Ofo’s “refund”

This one’s less of an April Fool and more of a bad joke. Whoever runs Ofo‘s Twitter account has a dark sense of humor and possibly knows they won’t have a job for too much longer.

Some quick background: Ofo was a shared bike pioneer before the wheels came off in spectacular fashion, leading to a cash crunch and enormous queues of people demanding the refund of their bike deposits.

Given all of that, will the company’s customers see the funny side of this Tweet?

ofo refund sharebike

5. Burger King’s “French Fry Taste Tester”

Dark horse! Burger King is, to our knowledge, not a tech company. But that didn’t stop them from throwing their crown into the ring this year, with a comprehensive job description for a new role at the company — french fry taste tester.

We gotta hand it to them, this LinkedIn job description page is awesome. According to the description, applicants must be able to distinguish the origin of the potato from a single bite, and responsibilities include overseeing french fry quality at over 1,000 Burger King locations. This one’s gotta be our winner, both for best-executed April Fool’s prank, and also for all-time dream job.


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