Our April Fools jokes turn into real products

Two ideas we thought were absurd enough to put out as April Fools' Day jokes last year are now turning into real products and services.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Back in 2007, we put out two April Fools' Day posts chronicling fake and absurd start-ups. One was a Google Maps mashup for rodent sightings in New York restaurants. The other was a prenatal version of Twitter where unborn children could post status updates. A few readers took the bait in the comment sections, but it appears our ideas weren't so far off, as both have come to fruition just a year and a half later.

The first is, true-to-form, a maps mashup where New York City residents can see where local eateries have had rat-related health code violations. The site was launched in late October by New York City health officials as a way for users to help police local businesses and feed data for scientific research.

The Rat Information Portal's map lets you browse by borough to see where there have been high inspection and infestation rates of rats. Yum. CNET Networks

The maps portion of the site isn't as easy to use as a Google Map, but it does a fine job at letting you filter the data to show all sorts of juicy tidbits, like which places had the most follow-up inspections and how far gone infestations were in each part of town. The data goes all the way back to 2006. Consider it yet another thing to check about your new neighborhood before taking the plunge on that new apartment.

Our other fake start-up, called UltraSoundd, was based around the idea of taking sound from unborn babies and converting it into status updates. In our implementation, this involved sticking a telephone to your stomach and using dial-up Internet. Designer Corey Menscher has come up with a far more ingenious plan however, by creating a sensor belt that will automatically convert any baby movements into Twitter status updates such as this one:

Your baby kicks--you get a Tweet. All courtesy of Corey Menscher's Kickbee belt. CNET Networks

Menscher calls it the "Kickbee," and in its current implementation it looks like a weight belt with a bunch of wires hanging off it. Within its folds is an array of sensors, a microcontroller and Bluetooth transmitter to send everything off to a nearby laptop. So far it has been tracking kicks and sending them to Twitter since early this month. You can find the entire project page for it, along with Menscher's other works here.