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Tacocopter the latest in a rich tradition of Internet hoaxes

March 28, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • Tacocopter was a startup that was just too good to be true.
Tacocopter was a startup that was just too good to be true. (Tacocopter.com )

It seemed too delicious. Too exciting. Too good to be true. And that's because it was.

Tacocopter, a faux Silicon Valley start-up, threw the Internet for a loop these last few days with a website that promised the delivery of tacos via unmanned drone helicopters that accepted orders from a smartphone app.

That combination of the excitement of Terminator films with the flavor of the cherished Mexican meal and the efficiency of the smartphones we've all become addicted to was just too perfect, and the Internet couldn't look away.

Dozens of tech sites and other news outlets from around the world began posting articles on Tacocopter last week.

And it sparked plenty of interest on social networks, too. Tacocopter's website has 45,000 Facebook likes, and it got plenty of support on Twitter.

"Now THIS is the kind of startup I can get behind," said one user.

"I hope THESE are the robots that take over the earth," said comedian Aziz Ansari.

But as Wired wrote, the start-up is completely fake.

"Is this thing for real?" Wired's Christina Bonnington wrote. "Oh, of course not. Not even close. Tacocopter isn’t a real app or startup. The technical, safety and legal hurdles facing such a taco-delivery system are near insurmountable in today’s environment."

But while one of Tacocopter's founders, an MIT grad, told Wired she wouldn't call the start-up a joke, she did tell the Huffington Post that at this point the high-tech delivery company is more of a conversation starter.

So if it's not a joke, why isn't it exactly real? Well the founder, Star Simpson, said it's federal regulations that are keeping the Tacocopter from being a reality.

"Barack Obama is taco blocking me," said comedic news anchor Stephen Colbert, who also got in on the coverage.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations currently prevent the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial services.

"Honestly I think it's not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people's heads," Simpson said to the Huffington Post.

But this isn't the first time something that is too good to be true but is just believable enough to write about has hit the Web.

Numerous outlets wrote about an Ohio woman who was suing her ex-boyfriend for tattooing a huge picture of fecal matter on her back after she cheated on him. That one, not surprisingly, turned out to be false.

This blog itself fell for one of these Internet hoaxes just last summer when it reported on a "joke" survey that claimed people with low IQs were more likely to use Internet Explorer as their browser.

"I just want to make it clear that the report released by my company did not suggest that if you use IE that means you have a low IQ, but what it really says is that if you have a low IQ then there are high chances that you use Internet Explorer," said a blog post for the fake study that has since been removed from the Web.

And who can forget just a little over a year ago when we were tricked into believing that a man with an iPhone, a balloon and a "device" that looks like it was soldered together in a seventh grade tech shop class had hacked one of the video boards in Times Square. That story truly had the Internet in awe, but not soon after it was debunked as a hoax.

And Tacocopter, sadly, is just another fake. It could become a reality, some day in the distant future, but until then, remember: don't believe everything you read on the Web.

ALSO:

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Do Internet Explorer users have the lowest IQs on the Web? [Updated]

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