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Hackers Turn a Gmail April Fool’s Joke Into a Reality

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If you happened upon the Internet Friday, you would have been faced with what has now become an annual tradition online: Technology companies trying to one-up each other with April Fool’s jokes posted online.

Google, for one, takes its April Fool’s gags very seriously. This year was no exception. Users of Gmail, Google’s e-mail service, were told about a new product, Gmail Motion, which would allow people to “control Gmail with your body!”

The company created an in-depth video explaining how this new mock service would work, where users could literally bounce around in front of their computer to sift through their inbox. Swinging a fist backward through the air would allow you to reply to a message; swinging two fists would reply-to-all; licking your hand — intended to be a stamp — and then tapping your right knee would send the message.

Of course this was all a joke. But hackers at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies wanted to make it a reality. To do this, a team of developers took a Microsoft Kinect sensor and some software they had built for previous projects and tied them together to create a fully working version of Gmail Motion.

As you can see from the video above, the same motions Google jokingly presented in its mock Web site all work with the hacked version of the product. The students also took a moment to poke a little fun at Google with the following product description posted with their video:

This morning, Google introduced Gmail Motion, allowing users to control Gmail using gestures and body movement. However, for whatever reason, their application doesn’t appear to work. So, we demonstrate our solution — the Software Library Optimizing Obligatory Waving (SLOOW) — and show how it can be used with a Microsoft Kinect sensor to control Gmail using the gestures described by Google.

Below is the original video Google posted Friday, with Gmail employees explaining how Gmail Motion works.

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