Augmented Reality Browsers Head To Head Part 1
I thought it was time to do an augmented reality browser head to head and put a few of the current applications through their paces to see which one comes out on top.
Today’s test is – Finding places to eat
It should be a simple task, you’re out and about and in the mood for a nice Indian curry, but where to eat? My benchmark is two Indian resturants that are close to my house. Sharod and Birashwamys. I use these becuase I know their physical locations so any errors will be easy to spot.
Using Layar local search I found 8 local Indian restaurants and I was pleased to see that the two reference restaurants were among the results and placed in the correct location. Layar gives the option to get directions from my current location, the phone number, the image of the restaurant and a few other useful bits. Since Layar allows you to limit the results to a search range I limited my results to a range of 2km. Sadly neither me or the other 60+ million people in the UK use kilometres and there is no option to change the unit of measurement to miles which is really annoying. Out of all the applications tested Layar local search performed the best with the least amount of data errors, of the 8 restaurants shown I only spotted 2 that were misplaced in residential areas.
The point of Layar however is the ability for 3rd parties to publish their own layers, so how did they compare? The Qype meets Layar layer produced different results and generally wasn’t a good experience. Apart from the map deciding it’s own scale and resetting itself every time I made a change it suffered from missing data. Our reference restaurant Birashwamys doesn’t show in the Qype layer and there are other data errors with my local pub showing up 3 streets away from it’s correct location. The Yelp layer is just as bad missing lots of data including both our reference restaurants.
Although Wikitude uses the Qype database it doesn’t have an option to find restaurants so was not useful in finding food.
RobotVision for the iPhone has search that uses Bing and searching for the keyword ‘Indian’ finds both our reference restaurants. The app however lists JPF Drum Tuition and Olga Piano Tuition as local Indian restaurants as well as plotting restaurants in residential streets.
The augmented reality view has a number of problems, for starters there is no compass to tell you where things are making it really hard to find anything. The other problem is if places are close together then its impossible to select all but the front option, then you’ll need to hit the next icon to move behind and select each one in turn. I’m sure they could have arranged a better layout.
Repeating the same test we find that Birashwamys has relocated up the street and Sharod has vanished from the map completely. Engaging the AR function aka Monocle ignores your search results and limits your options to Restaurants, Bars and Everything. Oddly in the AR view Birashwamys also vanishes and despite being listed and tagged as Indian restaurant it’s not shown. The app has the usual mix of features to get hold of the reviews, phone numbers etc. One last comment about the AR view is it’s so unresponsive, items in the view sit around regardless of where you point the camera then gradually slide away. Yelp is not without it’s mapping errors, further afield from my home location I noticed missplaced pubs, Chinese resturants and even a few resturants placed on the motoway.
UrbanSpoon surprisingly for an application that is dedicated to eating and finding restaurants performed the worst with the most mapping errors. Brashwamy’s is completely missing despite having submitted it via the applications add a restaurant function several weeks back. Sharod is shown but also located in completely the wrong location. There are also errors between the views, for example looking at the search results it shows just Indian restaurants, switching to the map mode we see the the inclusion of ‘The Chubby Panda’ and ‘Old China’ which are very odd names for Indian restaurants. Switching to the AR mode or Scope as its called also ignores my search and shows it’s own set of restaurants. UrbanSpoon gives me the feeling that it’s three independent applicants all reading different data.
I don’t have a lot of good things to say about the accuracy of UrbanSpoon, aside from the problems above five new restaurants have appeared in residential areas so I can only imagine UrbanSpoon are using the registered business addresses rather than the location of the actual restaurant.
Putting the application in to AR mode has a useful feature where the restaurants are represented by a bubble with the bubble colour reflecting the customer feedback. Clicking the bubble you can get the phone number, vote or add a menu with your camera. It’s just a shame that the data is so inaccurate that you’ll never be able to find the restaurant to see if it lives up to its hype.
Summary test 1
This test focused on data accuracy and its surprising how all the applications either misplaced or invented restaurants. You can live with the GPS not being accurate but having the POIs in the right location to begin with is essential.
Layar local search provided the best results but using the other layers the results were not so good. Layar coming out on top was a surprise, I thought a company who’s core business is restaurant reviews would have been top dog, instead the data for UrbanSpoon was the least accurate and a big disappointment.
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