IO, a virtual assistant that you chat with to get local recommendations, has launched its beta in New York City. Up to 100 TNW readers interested in testing the app can sign up here from their mobile devices.
Since it uses a natural language processing and conversation engine, IO has reached the point where it needs real-world users in order to train its algorithms. The company is hoping to launch publicly by the end of the year.
Currently, IO is focused on providing restaurant recommendations, but the service will eventually extend to other verticals. The app pulls in data from Yelp, The New York Times, The Infatuation, New York Magazine, Eater, Urban Spoon, Foursquare, Time Out and Tripadvisor.
IO is designed to act like a cross between a concierge and that one friend you text all the time for the best food recommendations. The assistant learns your preferences and can provide photos of venues, menu options, and traffic and parking information. The app is also in the process of integrating with third-parties in order to make reservations.
Moving forward, IO has three dimensions it will need to expand across: geography, language and verticals. IO CEO Eugenia Kuyda claims the technology operates independently of each of the three aspects, so it should scale quickly. The engine was originally tested in Russia, so it has already undergone two of the transitions.
IO will become significantly more useful once it has coverage across multiple cities, as local recommendations are best suited for travelers. According to Kuyda, the service will remain free forever, since she believes you shouldn’t have to pay for good advice.
➤ IO [Beta invite link]