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Google buys developer of restaurant recommendation app

Clever Sense's mobile app Alfred personalises suggestions

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Google has acquired Clever Sense, the developer of Alfred, a personalised restaurant and bars recommendations app, for an undisclosed price, the companies said Tuesday.

The Internet giant has been strengthening its local offerings. It acquired in September for example a restaurant ratings publisher Zagat to boost its online maps and local business listings with trustworthy reviews and recommendations.

Alfred, which currently provides recommendations on restaurants, bars, and night life in the locality where the person is, could however down the line broaden its scope, potentially making it the Android alternative to the Siri personal assistant on Apple's iPhone 4S.

Clever Sense's co-founder and CEO Babak Pahlavan suggested in a notice on the company's website that Alfred may include other information sources and services.

Discovering local information is extremely important to both users and businesses, and the acquisition of Clever Sense will benefit both, Pahlavan said. "With Google and Clever Sense working together, our entire team looks forward to building more intelligent, serendipitous and magical services!", he added.

Pahlavan is quoted elsewhere on the website as saying that "Today, having a knowledgeable personal assistant, ever ready at our side, to sift through the daily information overload and deliver tidbits actually relevant to what we like and what we want to do, could not be more needed".

Google's senior vice president of mobile, Andy Rubin, however told the AllThingsD AsiaD conference in October that he didn't believe the phone should be an assistant. "You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone," he added.

The Clever Sense platform, around which Alfred is built, is described by the company as designed "to connect the online world with the offline world by delivering recommendations to the users in context, taking into account time, place, and intent".

Alfred is available on both Android and the iPhone and iPad from Apple. Groupon was planning to acquire Clever Sense at one point, according to unconfirmed reports.

An extraction engine built into the Clever Sense Platform curates large amounts of unstructured crawled data by using natural language processing, statistical machine learning, and data mining algorithms, the company said on its website. A "Serendipity Engine" learns about the user's interests and preferences based on his interactions with various sources, including Clever Sense apps, Facebook, and Twitter.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of local, maps and location services welcomed the Clever Sense team in a Twitter message.



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