Archive for the 'augmented reality' Category

5 Ways to Simplify Mobile Reviews

You can never have too much data – especially when it comes to local reviews.  So for developers of local, mobile applications its worth looking for ways to simplify the process of capturing reviews.

So, here’s a list of 5 ways mobile application developers can simplify how a user identifies the business they want to review.  Here’s the scenario I’ll explore: I’ve just had a meal at a restaurant and want to quickly identify the business and give it a review.

1. Use a photograph of the menu

Take a picture of the menu and use software to automatically recognize the restaurant based on the picture.  The SnapTell iPhone application which provides ‘visual product search’ is a good example of this principle in action.   Now, just take that technology and apply it to local reviews.

Also uses: geo-location (GPS, cell-towers, wi-fi) as a hint to the image processor.

The challenge: photographing and tagging all those menus.  The crowds can help you out on this.  Restaurant owners might even be motivated.

2. Use a photograph of a code on the menu

Take a picture of a special code (likely a 2 dimensional bar code) somewhere on the menu.  Probably much more reliable.   You also get to engage the restaurant owner as an active participant in the process.  Google recently issued a patent on this idea.

Also uses: probably doesn’t need much help, a 2-D bar code would probably be reliable by itself.  That’s an advantage.

The challenge: getting restaurant owners to re-print their menus with 2 dimensional bar-codes.

3.  Use the restaurant’s wi-fi or blue-tooth signature

The restaurant could be identified by it’s wi-fi or blue-tooth signature.  You could even have the restaurant owner install a device explicitly for the purpose of being identified.

When the user opens the review application, you automatically present them with the restaurant based on the detected signature.  In a dense urban area, you might present them with a few different options on the screen.

Also uses: presents options to the user and gets confirmation/feedback from them.

The challenge: tagging all those signatures.  But others might be doing that anyway.  This might just become part of the general ‘geo-location’ infra-structure.

4.  Use location assisted auto-complete

The review app could use location-assisted auto-complete to quickly pick the restaurant to review.  Location is determined using GPS, cell-tower location, wi-fi or bluetooth signatures.  The user starts typing name of the restaurant and it auto-completes based on knowledge of place.  In most cases, the user will only have to type a few characters.

Also uses: The keyboard for input and a variety of geo-location technologies.

The challenge: geo-location information sometimes isn’t very accurate, so you need to make sure the auto-completion algorithm casts a wide enough net.  You also need geo-references for all the businesses.  But this one feels ready to implement now.

5.  Use augmented reality

Point your video camera at the outside (or possibly the inside) of the restaurant – see the name of the restaurant on the screen – pick it and enter your review.  Augmented reality is a hot-topic right now.  This one has sizzle, but I’m not sure it’s as practical as some of the other approaches.

Also uses: depends on accurate geo-location and a compass.

The challenge: accurate geo-location and tagged photographs of all those places.

More Reading

All of these suggestions are made possible by exploiting the array of new sensors available on mobile phones – which, as I’ve written previously, is turning them in to the Remote Control for Our Lives.

Recently, Tim O’Reilly has been promoting the idea of Web Squared – the evolution of Web 2.0 made possible (in part) by the sensors in phones.  These five suggestions are  an application of these principles to local reviews.

Google Patent’s My Invention to Simplify Reviews

Google has just published a patent for a process to simplify creating reviews using a smart-phone.  Bill Slawski describes the patent on his SEO by the Sea blog.

In simple terms, the idea would be to have UPC codes printed on something like restaurant menus.  Then you use the camera on your phone to photograph the code which automatically identifies the restaurant and lets you link your review to the restaurant.  The use of the code and the camera is intended to be faster and more convenient than having to enter the name of the restaurant manually.  The broad goal is to make it very easy for users to provide feedback.

And as Mike Blumenthal pointed out in a tweet, one nice thing about this process is that you would actively engage local merchants in the process.  Of course, that’s also the biggest hurdle — you have to get all those businesses to use your code.   Fortunately, there are alternative ways to simplify the process.  More on that in a future blog post.

Here’s the funny thing.  I remember discussing this concept with a colleague sitting in an airport in the fall of 2007.  Google filed their patent in March of 2008.  Of course, I didn’t disclose anything and I didn’t file a patent of my own.  So, Google wins.  And my generally ambiguous feeling about the worth of these kinds of patents continues.  I guess I need to either write my own patents or disclose the ideas on my blog in sufficient detail to prevent patents.

Apple: Purveyor of Remote Controls for Our Lives

Last week Apple marched on announcing price reductions across the iPod line and various new features.  The highlight was the addition of a camera and FM radio to the iPod Nano.  They high-lighted the importance of the iPod Touch (an iPhone without the phone) as a gaming platform.  The technocrati responded with a collective yawn — since there wasn’t anything sensational announced.

overview_hero1_20090909

To me it seemed like a well executed release of incremental products as part of a clear long-term strategy: Apple wants to the the dominant supplier of the remote controls for our lives.

Mobile devices allow us to interact with the virtual world while simultaneously interacting in the real world.  In fact, with the coming explosion of Augmented Reality applications – the line between the real world and the virtual one is becoming increasingly blurred.  Mobile devices allow us to consume media, produce media and communicate with people.

In Apple’s case, the original iPod focused on the consumption side of the equation – allowing us to consume first music, then videos.  The ability to further consume media has been expanded to include games and the internet.  What’s more, many applications are creating brand new categories of things for us to consume – like specialized maps and services such as navigation.

Of course, the iPhone also supports the creation of media and communication in many different ways.  Some of these – such as voice and text – are traditional mobile features – while others are again enabled by the App eco-system – think Facebook and Skype.

The iPhone is the all-singing, all-dancing remote for our lives, followed closely by the iPod touch.  But these devices are expensive — so Apple has to provide less capable devices at other price points – at least for the time being.  The thing about technology is that it’s only a matter of time before iPhone capabilities become available at truly mainstream prices.

So, the significance of the new iPod Nano is simply that Apple has expanded this mass market device into one that is now capable of capturing and sharing media as well as consuming it.  In some ways, this can be seen as a pragmatic interim step.  One which extends Apple’s reach as the purveyor of remote controls while holding firm on a well understood price point.

I sometimes wonder why Apple doesn’t introduce more of an ‘entry-level’ iPhone.  I think perhaps the answer is that they don’t have to — they simply have to wait for the economics of silicon to get there instead.  When the time comes, people will gladly ditch their cell phones for a shiny new remote control for their lives.  In the mean time, they can satisfy themselves with Apple’s partial remotes.

Local Advertising in Augmented Reality

As if local advertisers didn’t have enough on their hands trying to figure out how to make themselves visible on the web and in mobile — soon they’ll need to figure out how they should look in augmented reality.

Augmented Reality is where graphics or information are overlaid onto real world objects.  This can include information about stores, restaurants or points of interest:

Wikitude - 500x396 - real

Wikitude is a Wikipedia layer for Android intended for use as a travel layer (as seen in the screen-shot above).  And Dutch software firm Layar will soon release an application for Android.  It looks interesting:

What it Means for Local

Another place where local businesses want to make information about themselves available.  In Layar you’ll apparently be able to turn different layers on and off.  So, I can imagine a ‘dining’ layer with restaurants – one that you can apply filters to for different choices.  It seems like there will be aggregators — so again this is probably an opportunity for intermediaries like Yellow Page Publishers.

Now I can’t wait until someone makes an Augmented Reality available for my iPhone!

(via Read Write Web)


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