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In the interests of keeping things light, we humbly present the following web spoof that appeared in an April Fool's feature for the San Jose Mercury News. (And yes, some people were fooled. At least up until the bloody part.)
SURFING THE ROAD... AND BEYOND
SAN FRANCISCO (WWW) - The web may have changed the way you shop, but if a new Internet startup has its way, it will also change the way you drive.
WebDrive.com showed a prototype of its WebCar 3000 at a unique press conference held via cellphone last Wednesday. Unlike most conference call announcements, the company's participants, CEO Frank Stein and marketing VP William Slick, were actually on Highway 101 driving and demonstrating the prototype while talking to analysts and reporters in a multimedia-equipped bus driving alongside it.
As Slick narrated and closed-circuit wireless cameras showed the events in detail, Stein illustrated how a vehicle equipped with WebCar 3000 is able to bring the Internet to its driver by projecting web pages on to the windshield. Using the same heads-up display technology as Air Force fighter planes, the WebCar 3000 can allow the user to read his email, check stock prices, and download files while safely speeding along in congested traffic. "We've given new meaning to the term 'hard drive,'" crowed Stein.
Navigation of the road and the web are tightly integrated in the base model WebCar 3000, eliminating the need to install costly interface equipment. Users scroll up and down with taps of the brake pedal, move between links and buttons with small jerks of the wheel, and click on links with light touches of the accelerator. Gently engaging the emergency brake returns the browser to the previously-viewed page.
"It takes a delicate touch," said Stein, as he swerved between lanes and triggered a web search, "but after a few minutes, you get the hang of adapting your driving to accomodate your surfing. And lengthy page loads seem quite brief when you're in a special edition Range Rover, playing a good CD, talking to friends on your cell, and observing the legal speed limit."
WebDrive.com also offers a full set of options for WebCar 3000, including steering wheel keyboard, vision-directed mousing, side-window transparent networked whiteboard, videoconferencing cameras and software, digital VCR/DVD, projected HDTV with picture-in-picture, multimedia sound system, force-feedback joystick, virtual-reality headgear, and dash-mounted laserprinter/fax machine/scanner with collator, shredder, stapler, and document bindery capabilities. "Once we get regulatory approval, we'll even have an interface that lets you play racing videogames with your car's steering wheel," Slick said.
Safety concerns are addressed with a set of lighted "Webdriver on Board" cautionary signs that mount on all four sides of the vehicle. "We've found that carphone users like these too," said Stein, pulling a quick 180-degree turn and sideswiping the press bus as he rebooted his browser. Unfortunately, twelve oncoming vehicles moving at the speed of traffic were unable to avoid the prototype vehicle, ending the demonstration, but the potential of the technology was evident.
For the driver whose interests run to the server side, Webdrive.com offers WebCar 3000 Professional, a downscale satellite dish trailer with six parallel, pothole-tolerant, quad-processor webservers and an optional diesel-powered generator sidecar. The WebCar 3000 can be installed in any vehicle with more than 1000 square feet of free space, and costs between $259,999 and $499,999 depending on configuration and credit terms.
Slick admitted that the Webdrive.com product line appeals to a narrow demographic right now, but claimed that will soon change. "Let's face it -- the web is permeating our entire lives," he gasped, as LifeFlight medical personnel began prying the twisted steering wheel away from his chest. "Our growing commute is the biggest timeslice in our lives that is completely and devastatingly web-disabled.
"WebCar 3000 emancipates Internet professionals from their desks. We just sold one to the Kerouac of the twenty-first century; he's in Jakarta right now writing a hypertext masterpiece called 'On the Download.'"
"And the FCC and Pentagon are interested, too," added Stein with a toothless smile. "Mobile missile silos are good, but mobile websites assure true freedom of speech for everyone, from spammers to child pornographers to leaders of the free world."
However, Webdrive.com's vanguard product is the WebMan, a cranial implant that directly stimulates the user's retina to provide web access. "Eventually the WebMan will be the Walkman of the 21st century," Stein said, spurting blood from his nose and ear. "We actually have a functioning prototype installed in several dozen test subjects, but right now it requires the user to evacuate a square foot of cranial space for the processor, display interface, and fission-based power supply. We should have that down by half in time for launch."
To reduce the expected cost of WebMan installation and service, Webdrive.com will offer two sponsorship options. The WebMan Deluxe Ultra user surfs for free, but occasionally has his or her field of vision obscured by sponsors' advertisements. Users uncomfortable with pop-up ads can opt for the WebMan Plus 3000 XL, an even more ambitious product incorporating a new process called functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). While it is not yet possible to read minds, FMRI can detect basic mental states. Combined with voice recognition and GPS sensors, WebMan Plus 3000 XL will provide useful data for advertisers about the user's tastes and even actively encourage the user to change those tastes.
"The 'Net is meant to be democratic so everybody can participate in the global internet community," Stein gasped. "What good is it if children, homeless people, senior citizens, and household pets can't surf? The WebMan Plus 3000 XL, or "WMP3K-XL," is for them. It's completely ad-free. The only catch is that when users receive a small electric jolt to their brains' pleasure center, they are obliged to say something favorable about one of our sponsors, like 'I wanna go to the Gap.' If they don't, a moderate penalty shock is delivered to their brains' motor center and pain receptors."
Webdrive.com is not about to stop there, either. With the advent of web-enabled appliances and vehicles, a neurobrowser "life interface" would make possible a near-normal life for persons who are handicapped, or who are merely adverse to interacting with the physical world.
"This is the next technological revolution," Slick gurgled as he was lifted into the LifeFlight helicopter. "A hundred years ago, the idea of putting a TV into a minivan was outrageous. No one had even heard of Palm Pilots. And laptop computers were really, really heavy. Now we're entering The Matrix. WebMan and WebCar 3000 are the next steps in our evolution as the best-entertained, most efficient shopping organisms in living history."
copyright 2004 d. chang