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Ness, The Restaurant Discovery App, Adds Crucial Mapping Feature

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I made heavy use of Ness‘s restaurant-finding iOS app during a recent trip through the East Coast, because lots of places are still sadly short on Yelp reviews, and I wanted a quick way to find the best local spots to eat. While I got some good results, I would have been all over a new feature that Ness has just pushed out in an update today: maps.

Yeah, another restaurant app with a map. You’re not shocked, I know, but you should take a closer look because of the quality of results that Ness offers. It uses machine learning technology, deriving results from a variety of social signals that you provide it from Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, as well as your behavior and other data, to figure out which places you’ll like the most. The result is often what you’re hoping for — suggestions for great places that you might not have seen on other restaurant discovery apps, or heard about anywhere else for that matter.

Anyway, on to the update, which builds on the socially-focused release I covered back in December. Ness already lets you select your cuisine of choice, then few a list of results based on a percentage relevance score drawn from its data analysis. The mapping feature builds on this by showing each suggested place as a pin that’s color-coded to match its percentage ranking. A flat 50% is yellow, orange is 75%, and a full 100% is pink-red. Click on any pin and you’ll see a an overlay with the percentage score, some basic details like whether it’s open or not, and whether any of your friends have reviewed it.

“We’re just getting started here — I want to make it even more at-a-glance,” says Ness designer Scott Goodson, who knows a thing or two about this because he was an original member of the iOS team at Apple, and worked on apps including Maps, Stocks, Calculator, Safari, YouTube, and Game Center. “We chose color-blind safe colors, and a few other subtle but important features…. A lot of people need this type of mapping view to really get a lot out of this type of app. But there’s a lot more to do.”

Some of future additions, he says, could include a better way to more easily view pins for restaurants that are close together on the map, as well as include the specific ranking score on the pin for each location within the map view. Also, the company’s larger plan to is to offer its technology for other verticals besides restaurants, and I expect to see the map interface travel along with any such expansions.

So, if you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time and trying to choose from the hundreds of brunch places here, or if you’re driving through the eastern seaboard like I was and trying to find some quality soul food, or whatever else, go check the app out. You can download it here.