MyBantu is an interesting little mashup, available as an iPhone app, an Android app, and a website. Its goal is to make shopping for anything, especially restaurants and movies, easier and more social. It uses Yelp API, Netflix API and various others to make it happen. It’s very similar in idea to Siri, the “ultimate mashup” that Apple later gobbled up in the largest mashup acquisition ever.
Unlike Siri, myBantu doesn’t have integrated speech to text technology, but it does have decent natural language processing. It does some of the things Siri does, but lacks the ability to search weather reports and book taxis. MyBantu seems more focused, being mostly about helping you have a fun night out, where Siri seems a bit more comprehensive with its personal assistant features.
From the press release:
“What makes myBantu unique compared to other recommendation sites and apps is that it uses the user’s context to intelligently source very personalized and relevant recommendations.”, said Bhaksar Enaganti, founder and CEO, myBantu. “Now, consumers have a powerful and smart personal assistant that combines the wisdoms of the Web, social networks, and experts to provide users with recommendations that are most relevant to them in a timely fashion.”
Within minutes of making friends with myBantu, the service creates a profile consisting of the user’s favorite social and lifestyle preferences from shopping, entertainment, dining and events replacing the need for ala carte solutions such as OpenTable, Yelp and search engines. For example, if planning a “date night”, myBantu would create a personalized list of recommendations based on nine parameters including the user’s profile, past usage behavior and peer influence. In addition, myBantu also enables users to act on these recommendations, such as making restaurant reservations, purchasing movie tickets, gifts, etc.
The ideas behind both of these apps are great, but they could always do with adding more minor tricks. MyBantu could do better if it added a search for all local comments, which would be easy to do and is currently absent. Both of them would also be well served by integrating coupon services such as the Groupon API. Another good one, oriented at parents, would be the KidsEatFor API, which helps find out where kids eat free.
Using a few more criteria to provide recommendations would take these sorts of apps further. I have a vision of an app that works a little more like this: you put in your location, who is with you, and maybe a few things about them (ages, likes and dislikes in general terms), and it gives you relevant local search results for things like restaurants and movies, very similar to how myBantu and Siri work, but a little better at targeting specific age groups and such. Although myBantu and Siri are both pretty cool, they have a bit of a feel of “not quite done yet” to me. We may never see another version of Siri (until it is integrated into iOS), but myBantu still has the potential to create a version is more polished and complete.