Yelp's Augmented Reality Success a Surprise Even to Yelp

By April 02, 2010

Yelp’s Monocle augmented reality (AR) app might have been the first to be released, but its success was a huge surprise to its creators. “We didn’t realize that it would be such a big deal when we prototyped it. We buried

it initially as an Easter Egg,” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said yesterday at Where 2.0.

Monocle is a tail-waving-dog story. Or more accurately, blog waving dog.

It started as an idea born in a Yelp brainstorming session, an idea that was picked up and Scobleized. After blogger Robert Scoble wrote that Yelp was indeed coming up with “an app using a compass,” a Yelp intern got really excited about it and built a prototype.

Even after being wowed by the prototype, Yelp still wasn’t sure. “It was an early technology, it was a little rough, and our location technology wasn’t that accurate,” Stoppelman said. “We didn’t think it would be that useful, but we did think it was cool.”

So they released it as an Easter Egg. An Easter Egg that when discovered by users boosted their traffic by 40 or 50 percent.

“It blew up on us,” Stoppelman said. “It was sort of beyond our expectations. We had no idea.”

So after being surprised by his own company's augmented reality efforts, how does Stoppleman see the future of AR?

"There’s a lot of hype around it, but the technology is still early," Stoppleman said. "So it’s probably a few years before we have really practical applications."

"It’s something that early adopters get a huge kick out of," Stoppleman added, "but I don’t know that it will go mainstream for a while.”

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