​Analogue Living

AI restaurant guide makes friendly recommendations

Finding a new place to eat with a friend or that special someone often requires a trawl throughGoogle search results or Yelp reviews, but they're not very good at knowing the types of restaurants you already like. Adding a touch of natural language recognition and artificial intelligence, Russia's IO is an app that learns users' preferences and chats with them to help them find restaurants nearby. Users simply start by typing questions into IO, without having to fill out any preferences up front. IO will then begin to reply with an easy-to-understand answer in a friendly tone. Users can type as if they were speaking to a friend over text and IO will understand what they're saying. When recommending a restaurant, the app brings up all of the relevent details -- location, description, menu, prices, opening times and contact details. Users can also ask what's good on the menu, what the atmosphere's like and if it's good for a date, along with other questions they might have. For each response, users can let IO know if they think it looks good, if they want to know more info or a different suggestion. This way, the app learns their preferences and can make better recommendations in the future. The more they use it, the smarter it becomes. Over time, users can save information about their favorite restaurants to create their own unique collection.

Recently launched in New York City and with plans to expand to major European cities, IO is part of a trend for presenting data in a more friendly way using AI and machine learning, and at times it feels close to the vision of the future presented in Spike Jonze's Her. Are there other ways to make tech user interfaces feel less like working with a computer and more like speaking with a human?