Bionic Eye: Clever idea, flawed execution

Mel Martin
M. Martin|09.25.09

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Mel Martin
September 25, 2009 7:00 PM
Bionic Eye: Clever idea, flawed execution
Bionic Eye [iTunes link] is an augmented reality app for the iPhone that displays businesses around you superimposed over a live camera picture.

It sorta works, but doesn't solve any problem I have. It's cool to rotate around and see a Burger King logo or a Hilton Hotel logo pop up when the actual locations are nearby. The problem is, I can get that kind of information from Google Maps and hundreds of other free or paid apps that can give me the same info, although not in such a sexy way.

Even worse, the app is very, very slow. It takes Bionic Eye anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to fully launch. If I go to the settings menu to change something, it takes another minute to absorb that change and bring me to a usable screen.

If you turn your iPhone horizontally, you can see all the nearby locations in a list, and when you select one a blue arrow points you to the actual location. Whee!

I had a couple of lockups when I went to the setting screen to make a change, which only added to my frustration. The points of interest you are searching for are limited to about a 2 mile range, so it will only guide you to places that are really close. Usually I could look up and see the destination, so I really didn't need the app in the first place. It has a limited list of locations, and they're all brand names, so if you are looking for a restaurant that is not a franchise or a hotel that is not part of a chain, it's tough luck for you.

For an additional fee, you can get guidance to subway stations in New York, Washington and Chicago. There are also versions of the app for the U.K., France and Tokyo.

Bionic Eye is only US$0.99, but it doesn't answer the first question you should ask of any app -- does it solve any real world problems I have. An app should be a novel solution to a problem or great entertainment. Bionic Eye is neither, but it has potential if it can be given a larger database, much faster load times, and crash a lot less frequently. To be fully functional, Bionic Eye requires an iPhone 3GS.

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