Foursquare has been crowning "mayors" at bars and restaurants since its founding in 2009, and now the
social media location intelligence* company is trying to offer users more personalized recommendations for a bite or drink. Marsbot is Foursquare's new app, and it aims to help you "discover new places by learning what you like and then sending you recommendations via SMS."
In a post published on the company's blog Tuesday, Foursquare product manager Marissa Chacko explained how the new app works. It's available only for iOS devices in New York City and San Francisco at the moment, and there's a waitlist to gain access. Chacko says the app is not a chatbot, because with a chatbot, a user has to ask it specific questions to get information. The company wants Marsbot to use Foursquare's location data "to give you the answers before you even ask — just based on where you are and where you usually go."
"Like my bestie, Marsbot texts me when it discovers a new chai spot opening around the corner from my office"
"Personally, I'm lucky to have a best friend who works in the NYC food scene and keeps me hip to the best new restaurants and bars," Chacko wrote. "But not everyone is #soblessed. We think of Marsbot as that best friend who knows what you love, where you hang out — and also happens to know all the best places in your city. Like my bestie, Marsbot learns that I'm into pistachio gelato and I spend most of my time in The Mission. Like my bestie, Marsbot texts me when it discovers a new chai spot opening around the corner from my office. And like my bestie, Marsbot isn't perfect, but is always full of good intentions."
No doubt, this technology will cause a rift between those who adore the service it provides and those who are totally creeped out by an app constantly tracking their location and learning what they like.
As opposed to an interface similar to Yelp, Google, OpenTable, Facebook, and even Foursquare's original app, all of which offer reviews that are meant to guide a user in their eating and drinking exploits, it appears Marsbot will present recommendations as if they were coming in a text conversation with a friend. And if Chacko's "bestie" language is any indication, that's exactly how Foursquare wants those interactions to feel. The Verge notes Marsbot is meant to be "more of an experiment than a major new product initiative," but it sounds like the company is trying to shape a new direction for a booming industry.
"While we are iterating, fixing bugs, and improving the experience, we'll be slowly letting people in from the waitlist," Chacko wrote. "It'll take time for Marsbot to learn about you and for us to refine how it all works. So please be patient. No one said inventing the future would be easy."
*Update: A spokesperson tells Eater Foursquare now prefers to be characterized as a "location intelligence company" because of its collection of consumer apps, enterprise, and sales products.