Location-Aware Thumb Ratings

February 20th, 2003

People have predicted very complex “augmented-reality” systems that might arise in the near future, when many folks will carry around location-aware devices. But how about a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down rating system?

Here’s how it might work: your device includes a green thumbs-up button and a red thumbs-down button, TiVo-remote style. As you move through the city, when you enter a favorite restaurant or club or cafe you click the “thumbs up” button. When you pass that restaurant where you got food poisoning or that stuffy overpriced bar, you click “thumbs down.” And if you enter an especially wonderful place, you click “thumbs up” twice to give it two thumbs up.

The key: you don’t have to interrupt your daily activities; just reach into your pocket and click one of two buttons whenever you think of it.


Each time you press the button, the device records your geographical location and the thumb rating. Soon you have a little database, a map that shows the spots around town that you love and the spots that you hate.

So what? So nothing, until people share their preference maps. Now you have a powerful concept.

Thanks to this network, you can share your preference map with anyone who wants to use it, and you can freely use other peoples’ preference maps. You decide which of your friends have tastes closest to your own, and you subscribe to those friends’ preference maps.

Software on your device notifies you when you’re near a spot that friends have rated positively; if a dozen of your friends rated a place highly, the device specifies via sounds or spoken words that the spot got a lot of thumbs up from the people you trust. And another thing — software maps this for you, visually overlaying the green and red thumb-clicks over a map of a city or a region or a building.


You can also form preference groups, just as you form e-mail discussion lists. Everyone who shares an interest adds their account to a particular list, and that list compiles all members’ preference maps into a master map for that group. Then anyone in the group can subscribe to the group map and use it or turn it off as desired. (Of course, if you no longer trust a person or a group’s tastes, you can filter out their thumb-clicks on your map by removing that person or group from your list).

For certain events you use time-sensitive preference maps with thumb-clicks that fade over time. This could be great at an art fair or an outdoor festival — you form a preference group with a bunch of friends who will attend the same event, and as you all explore the place, you each tag the coolest things and the most worthless things that you see. You might glance at a map and notice a dozen bright green blips at bandstand 3, which suggests that something amazing is going down there right now. Those green blips by the coat-check, on the other hand, have faded, so you probably missed whatever happened there. So you head straight to the action at bandstand 3.


(I’m reading the book “The Orchid Thief,” and I just finished a scene that takes place at an orchid convention. Word spreads through the convention center that “you’ve got to check out the orchid that smells just like grape Kool-Aid.” Frustrated flower freaks are milling around, blindly trying to find that particular orchid among hundreds of flowers on display. The orchid freaks would immediately know just where to find the most talked-about flowers in the show if they used such a preference system. That’s what sparked this idea.)

2 Responses to “Location-Aware Thumb Ratings”

  1. comment number 1 by: Laura (friend of Dav)

    Oooh, that’s a really fantastic idea. Currently I am limited to restaurant reviews in the newspaper, but this would take everything to a whole new level. Just this past week I was trying to tell someone about a little side street deli in Wilmington, Delaware that I loved, but I couldn’t remember the name of the shop. (And I am still trying to think of it.) When you patent the idea, send me the first few models and I’ll test it here in Charlotte. *grin*

  2. comment number 2 by: Ward

    Interesting idea. Do you mind if we use it? 🙂