Thursday, July 18, 2019
AR AppsAugmented RealityMobile AR Apps

A Look at Suggestic and Their New AR App

The AR app that helps users to choose the right menu items for themselves.

 

Picking the best menu item can be daunting. That’s especially true at restaurants that you aren’t familiar with. Even more so because  many restaurants don’t include dietary information or even ingredients. Do you ever wish that you could just look at any menu and see the best choices?

Suggestic is a San Francisco-based startup. They focus on dietary coaching but their new AR app uses AI to help users see menus through a health scanner.

What Is Suggestic?

“Suggestic is a personalized solution platform. Our goal is to help people achieve their goals through a better lifestyle,” said Shai Rozen, one of the co-founders of Suggestic. “Particularly, when we say ‘lifestyle’ we believe that diet is one of the main components of a healthy lifestyle.”

Suggestic does this with a two-step process, according to Rozen. First, it helps users determine the diet that is right for them and then helping them stick to that diet. It does this by providing videos, recipes, meal plans, educational content, and more.

Rozen emphasized that healthier diets don’t all mean lower calories and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with weight loss. Suggestic does work with people looking for fewer carbs and calories but they also have guides for people avoiding gluten, animal products, and other things.

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“One of the major differences between Suggestic and other apps is that we’re beyond calories,” said Rozen. “We’re not trying to make it about calorie counting, we’re trying to decide how healthy a menu item is for you.”

As a result, Suggestic does consider calories but it also considers other health elements. Those include how the food will affect blood sugar, blood pressure, and other considerations.

“We have to understand the language of food but it’s so complex. We believe that the only way that we can understand it is through AI,” said Rozen. “Where Suggestic is headed is accepting more inputs and understanding more outputs.”

One day, this technology will be able to look not just at food but at the genetics and biology of the user, said Rozen.

How It Works

Suggestic is partnered with a number of health experts who lend their experience and expertise. However, most of the utility of their AR app comes from AI.

The company maintains a database of nutritional information on millions of food items. It gets this information by buying it from third parties, accessing public information, and using databases provided by government agencies like the USDA. Users can also report possible oversights or mistakes that they find when using the app.

“We’ve created a set of AI algorithms that are able to predict ingredients of a restaurant item within 95 percent accuracy,” said Rozen. “The algorithm takes all of the available information and complements it with contextual information and … basically fills in the gaps.”

Part of the reason that the algorithms aren’t completely accurate is that the databases are incomplete. There is also a little guesswork going on and, as Rozen puts it, “food is very imprecise.” As a result, Rozen doesn’t think that the algorithm will ever be perfect.

“In cases where someone has an allergy we tell them ‘don’t trust the app, tell your server’,” said Rozen. “Even if the app was 100 percent accurate [regarding intentional ingredients], it couldn’t account for things like food prep.”

In other words, the perfect app would be able to tell you with certainty whether the salad you ordered contained nuts. However, even the perfect app couldn’t tell you whether the cook had worked with nuts on the cutting board used to prepare the salad.

restaurants map suggestic AR app

Using the AR App

Now that we’ve covered the AI, where does the AR come in?

Most Suggestic services were available before the release of their AR app. However, the AR app changes the way that Suggestic services look, work, and feel.

“You point your phone’s camera at a menu and it highlights menu items almost instantly,” said Rozen. “Then, you tap on the menu item on your phone screen through the camera and through the AR interface and get more contextual information than what is available on the menu.”

The AR app highlights menu items in three colors. One color signifies that the menu item is recommended, one signifies that the menu item is allowed. The final color signifies menu items that the app recommends that you avoid.

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If you’re at a chain restaurant like a fast-food establishment, the information on any given menu item may be exact. If you’re in a smaller or less familiar restaurant, there will be more guesswork. Further, most of the menu items and restaurants used in designing the AR app are American. You can get the app elsewhere but “foreign” foods may not register.

Stats and Reviews

The AR app is free on iTunes though it does include options for in-app purchases.

As for an Android version, “Plans, yes. An exact date, unfortunately not yet,” said Rozen. “… maybe by the end of the year.”

Reviews from users of the app are overwhelmingly positive. Some negative reviews said that the app could not recommend restaurants that fit their diet plans. However, this may not be the app’s fault depending on the restaurants in their area. Further, even if the app couldn’t recommend a whole restaurant it probably could have found recommended menu items within those restaurants.

Even without the AR app elements, reviews generally praise the recipes and other content offered by the app.

If you’re trying to lose weight, trying to avoid gluten, exploring vegetarianism, or trying to keep your blood pressure down, restaurant menus can seem daunting. However, AI can help through this unique AR app.

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Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance writer specializing in Technology and Health. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife and cat.