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Quick Pitch: Oink is a recommendation service which lets you recommend precise objects within physical places.
Genius Idea: Pushing the recommendations a step further than the norm, Oink hopes to make recommending stuff more fun and more social.
If you like a certain place (like a restaurant), you probably like some particular objects within it (like specific dishes). That seems to be the basic idea behind Oink, a new project from Kevin Rose’s mobile app company Milk.
The app – currently available for iOS devices – lets users rate objects within a place; objects such as pepperoni pizza, a mochachino or a ham sandwich. While this is not that different from standard recommendation apps such as Tripadvisor, Oink makes the entire experience more social by adding the concept of “cred”.
As you use the app to recommend stuff to others, you build cred and rise on Oink’s social ladder – similar to the way you earn badges in Foursquare. As you level up, you unlock more functionality, which makes the entire experience similar to a game.
Let’s say I’m really interested in Mexican food. I can choose it from a list of categories and check out what’s one, five, 25 or 100 miles around me, or I can simply go global and check out all the Mexican restaurants covered by Oink users (this is the only option that makes sense in most cases, as the app is still really new and there hasn’t been that many recommendations yet).
If you’re actually sitting in a restaurant, Oink becomes super useful as it acts like an interactive, super-charged version of the restaurant’s menu, showing you which items on the menu are liked or disliked by other users. If you’re walking down the street, then the app becomes similar to Yelp, with a map that displays nearby restaurants and other points of interest, accompanied by ratings.
Finally, you can use the app similar to the way you would use Twitter – by checking out a global feed of all the recent recommendations from all the Oink users.
The multitude of options is one of Oink’s strengths – it’s like Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp put together in a single, fun, beautifully designed app. However, it might also be the app’s weakness, as many users will probably give up on wading through the forest of features, especially in a crowded restaurant or walking through a strange city.
Right now, we see it as an app for geeks, tinkerers and (possibly) gamers, who are completely immersed in technology and don’t mind spending 10 minutes with Oink before ordering a dish at a restaurant. We’ll see if it catches on amongst a wider audience.