Gmail Motion: April Fools Prank Turned Reality
Article by George Norman
On 18 Apr 2011
If you missed the Big April Fools coverage, the Gmail team announced the introduction of Gmail motion, a new type of technology that allows you to control Gmail using your body. The prank went something like this: after turning on Gmail Motion, you could control Gmail by making predefined motions at your webcam; the webcam would pick up your motions and perform a certain action.

For example if you wanted to open a message, you had to perform the same action as you would when opening a real envelope. You can get a better idea of what I’m talking about by checking out this YouTube video and this list of movements Gmail Motion detects.


“Once you enable Gmail Motion from the Settings page, Gmail will enable your webcam when you sign in and automatically recognize any one of the detected movements via a spatial tracking algorithm. We designed the movements to be easy and intuitive to perform and consulted with top experts in kinestetics and body movement in devising them,” said on April Fools Paul McDonald, Product Manager.

Even though Google announced Gmail motion as an April Fools prank, some people took it seriously. Neowin reports that a YouTuber known by his username Ramaprasanna took this idea to the next step and turned Gmail motion into a reality. Ramaprasanna took a close look at the list of movements Gmail Motion detects, wrote 60 lines of code, and got Microsoft Kinect to recognize the movements and control Gmail. Ramaprasanna said that it took him only two hours to turn Gmail motion into a reality.

You can check out a video of Ramaprasanna using Kinect to control Gmail on YouTube here.

I would like to add that Google’s Gmail motion prank was not exactly original. On the 1st of April 2009, Opera Software was announcing the launch of Face Gestures, new technology that allows you to control the Opera browser using face gestures. Check out this YouTube video to get a better idea of what I am talking about.

Tags: Googe, Gmail, Microsoft, Kinect, April Fools
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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