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TripAdvisor app gets trippy with AR feature

New Live View feature offers reviews via uploaded photos showing what app users beheld while composing their review.

Live View on iPad 2
This is how Live View on the TripAdvisor app looks using an iPad 2. TripAdvisor

The TripAdvisor app for the iPad 2, iPhone, and iPod Touch added a new feature this week, introducing a touch of "augmented reality" via the devices' cameras.

Live View lets travelers explore the travel site's more than 45 million user reviews of restaurants, attractions, hotels, and such superimposed over what app users see through the mobile device's camera.

As its designers describe "...if a traveler is standing outside a restaurant, they can simply point their mobile device's camera at it and TripAdvisor ratings and reviews of that establishment will automatically be displayed on the screen."

I tried it out after downloading the update from the App Store and discovered a poorly reviewed nail salon and Thai massage joint near me here in Los Angeles that might be a seedy brothel. I doubt that's what the app designers had in mind for most travelers to discover, but all the bangs and whistles work.

Away from what I thought was a good neighborhood here, the app's new ability promises to allow users to take a virtual walk through their surroundings, with those reviews and opinions popping up over Street View images from Google.

The whole process removes steps from the "look-up" process while searching for worthwhile attractions around the user. Previously, travelers would cycle through multiple apps to map their immediate area, list possible stops along the way, and rate possible attractions. Live View promises to do it all.

Live View works with--not in place of--the TripAdvisor app's established features. The "Near Me Now" function still lets travelers determine which hotels, restaurants, and attractions are nearby. Meanwhile, traveler photos of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and destinations pop up on all platforms.

Let's all be thankful there were no saved photos of that "spa" next door.