Yelp’s Monocle: An Augmented Reality iPhone App

Talk about a purple cow.

Yelp just released a new version of their Apple (AAPL) iPhone app with an easter egg: Monocle, an Augmented Reality (AR) feature. This feature is only available on the iPhone 3GS.

According to Robert Scoble, to get this app, follow these steps:

  1. Download the latest version of the Yelp iPhone app.
  2. Enter the app.
  3. Shake it several times. Although Scoble says to shake it 3 times, I had to shake mine like 10 times.
  4. A message will appear saying Monocle was activated. Touch the OK button.
  5. Touch the Monocle button at the top right corner of the screen.

And that’s it. If you hold the phone vertical and point the iPhone around the room, you’ll see the camera working. An overlap of Yelp reviews will appear in the direction of that particular business. If you need more help, Mashable also has step-by-step instructions, along with screenshots and this video:

It’s a pretty neat feature. Major props to the Yelp team for pulling this off. They earn loads of geek cred for this.

If I lived in New York City, I could see this being somewhat useful. The compass-based directional map on the Google (GOOG) Maps iPhone app is more useful though. The prime benefit of Monocle is letting me know which direction a restaurant is located. Google Maps does that too, plus it includes zooming in and out. Sadly, the Google Map on Yelp doesn’t have the directional feature. Maybe Yelp should add that as their next feature.

Another nice benefit of Monocle is letting me know which restaurants are near me. That’s pretty nice, if I want any ole’ restaurant. But generally, I use Yelp to find me a good, high-quality restaurant. Being a little bit further away is fine because I’m looking for good food. I’m not sure what Monocle’s distance limit is, but what if a great place is just ten steps to my left? Would I miss out on it because I wasn’t standing close enough for Monocle to display it?

To be fair, the same could be said about Google Maps if, say, a great restaurant was just off the left edge of the screen. But it’s easier to scroll the screen to the left than it is to know to walk ten steps in some direction.

But enough criticism. Geek-cred-wise, this is pretty cool. Lots of people are talking about it too, which is even more cool. Awesome demonstration of AR technology, guys. I’m looking forward to other AR applications soon.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.