Lost in a rural part of New England with my wife and my Android mobile phone, I pulled the car over. I fired up my Yelp application to look for a restaurant. Yelp has been long known as a web site for individuals to review restaurants, shopping, events and other happenings in communities around the world. I wasn’t quite ready for the new additions to my mobile version. The latest update brought new social features as well as a feature called “monocle”: an augmented reality function.
Augmented Reality, or “AR” leverages your phone’s GPS and enables you to point your mobile phone’s camera at something and see relevant information on your screen. In our case, surrounded on all sides by trees, regular reality was sadly lacking. I clicked on the monocle feature of Yelp and a small radar-like screen appeared in the upper right of my phone’s screen to show me the direction of restaurants. Holding my phone pointed east (I was looking at trees on the screen), I was also able to virtually see through those trees as blocks “floated” on the screen, indicating where the restaurants were, their ratings, number of reviews and their distance. We chose one and selected the map feature. We were seated 3 minutes later.
If you’ve ever been somewhere and were trying to find where you should eat, sleep or go, this makes it easy. Pointing it down a Boston street lined with restaurants also worked well.
Layar, who describes themselves as an augmented reality browser for Android and iPhone has been getting the big buzz recently as they were featured in a recent Verizon/Motorola Android commercial. Yelp may have implemented AR functionality to make it easier for the user. Layar has a wide variety of “layars” available that allows you to do everything from find a new place to live, eat, determine which Twitter people are near you or layer history – or just a ton of information about your surroundings on your mobile phone. (I will continue to use both applications).
Yelp has also added new quick tips, the ability to “check in” to a location and let others know you are there. You can also attain “badges” to show your status. (Hey guys, do you have a “wrote a story” badge?). These features are a direct competition to the geolocation king Foursquare. Yelp is clearly leveraging their 9-million monthly views versus FourSquare’s 1.4 million. The question will be, did all the people who love to check in already go to FourSquare? (No, not likely).
The real question is what will happen when Facebook does this? (If I had a beard, I would stroke it in deep thought).
And at least for now, Yelp has appointed me the Duke of the restaurant. You have my permission to be impressed.
… Post script to the story…
While writing this story, I tweeted that “Writing my MediaBullseye piece this week on how Yelp got me out of the woods and to lunch. Decided: I like the AR feature.” Before I finished the story @YelpBoston answered “I’d love to read about your @yelp experience when you’re finished! Where did you go for lunch?”
If you’ve read my column before, I always appreciate when a company – especially one trying to build a good community reaches out.
Of course, now I feel compelled to write a lengthier review for a great little family restaurant. Oh heck, they deserve it.