Starting today, you can hail a car on Lyft via a wearable gadget for your thumb. Only you can’t really do that because this is just a dumb prank. But wow, what a prank it is.
Lyft loves its pranks. Every year, the ride-hail company does something outlandish for April Fools’ Day. Last year, Lyft added something called "prank mode" to its app, allowing customers in NYC, LA, and San Francisco to embark on elaborate pranks involving fake radio stations, actors, and of course, Lyft Line. One such prank involved NBA star Festus Ezeli. Hilarious.
This year, Lyft outdid itself, but in doing so it revealed an inherent weakness: it doesn’t understand how pranks work. April Fools’ Day is about tricking a gullible public into believing something that is fundamentally not true. But when you go to extreme lengths to make the prank so believable that it becomes true, than it is you who has been pranked.
Which brings me to Mono, Lyft’s first wearable gadget. Before I explain anything about the Mono, please watch the video above, because it is amazing. Seriously, I could watch this dancer promote fake technology all day.
So as you can see, the Mono is worn on the user’s thumb, sort of like a Nintendo Power Glove but just for one digit. After downloading the Lyft Mono app (yep, there’s an app) and connecting it to your Lyft account, you can stick out your thumb on the street corner and hail a Lyft car. Like a hitchhiker, get it? Except not for free and infinitely less dangerous.
We interrupt this story for some photos of American fashion model Bella Hadid making an incredibly dorky piece of hardware look somehow... fashionable?
Here’s the thing about the Mono: it really hails a Lyft car. The thing works, like for real. Stick out your thumb and the motion-triggered, magenta LED lights come on. The lights blink to indicate a car is on the way, and increase in speed when the driver is en route, and pulse when he or she has arrived. Lyft took a goofy idea about an April Fools’ Day prank and dialed it to 11.
The company is holding a pop-up event in San Francisco today to show off the Mono to the unsuspecting public. Footage of people’s amazement about the existence of this gadget will no doubt be captured and edited in such a way so Lyft’s executives can watch it later and have a good laugh about how clever they are.
And what’s the ROI for April Fools’ Day pranks?
No, Lyft. You are the ones who got fooled. You spent good money (or maybe more accurately General Motors’ good money) to build a couple dozen wearable thumb gadgets that you never intend on selling. Remember GM’s Roboglove?
And what’s the ROI for April Fools’ Day pranks? Lyft wants to be the “woke” alternative to Uber, right? The friendlier, cuddlier company that people can use guilt-free because employees aren’t being sexually harassed and drivers aren’t being berated by the CEO and there’s even an in-app tipping option! How nice!
But that’s not enough for Lyft. They also want to be the weird uncle who does magic tricks every Thanksgiving. While other Silicon Valley startups have recently abandoned their whimsical, mischievous pasts in favor of a more buttoned-up facade for institutional investors, Lyft continues to lean into its commitment to totally messing with its customers. Zombies, chicken feathers, Delorean trips for Back to the Future Day. Lyft even as executive-level prankster whose job is to come up with new ways to mess with customers.
These are dark, strange times we’re living, so far be it from me to spend too much timing dismissing Lyft’s obvious devotion to mirth-making. I don’t want to be labeled an April Fools’ grinch. And who knows? Maybe there’s a market for thumb-exoskeletons that summon freelance drivers who will take you to where you need to go. People are cool with wearing cameras on their faces, right?