Kabaq Augmented Reality Food App – Yummy!

Kabaq is an app that allows people to see the food in a restaurant before they order. It uses augmented reality and high-quality 3D food items to create a unique way for people to enjoy ordering food. Kabaq also aims to use it for home delivery service by allowing users to see photorealistic 3D virtual food items right in front of them, use it with Snapchat or Facebook to create marketing campaigns, use it for catering menu presentation, 3D banner ads, meal preparation services, etc.

I’ve already seen some videos of this app on the web, but I had to try it myself. Before we move on talking about this interesting AR app, let’s take a look at a promotional video for the app. Just to better illustrate its purpose. Furthermore, I was testing the app in the kitchen, and it’s better to start with giving some good first impressions.

As you can see, the customer gets a tablet with Kabaq app installed (probably already opened with the specific restaurant’s menu). The customer takes the table, point it at the table and browser through the different item in the menu.

The selected item appears on the table in real-life size (I assume this because I tested it myself and the size looks realistic and also on their website they say: “Inform your customers about portion size..”).

3D hamburger in augmented reality
The menu took some to preload, but the results are astonishing Looks at this delicious hamburger. Can you tell a real one and virtual? (enjoy enlarging this image)

I’ve already tested one app that had the same idea, but the execution was far from being impressive as Kabaq’s. Menu3 is that app, and as you can see in the video on the article, the food 3D model and image resolution don’t look good. On the other hand, you can clearly see that Kabaq is focusing on making great first impressions by making sure that the food appears at the highest quality possible.

Seriously, I got a few millimeters from the food and the image looked surprisingly sharp.

Dutch Boy 3D virtual Burger inside a microwave oven in augmented reality
I wish the microwave oven really had this burger in it. What a beautiful food presentation, isn’t it?

You can also see that the images of the food were taken under well-supervised lighting conditions. I’ve read on the FAQ page that in order to use kabaq technology, people can contact the company and buy their photoshoot set that helps to take high-quality 360 picture of their food. There is also a service allowing business owners to book a photographer that will do the job for them.

Photorealistic 3D virtual food up close
Look at those delicious photorealistic details. Can you tell this is a virtual food, I can’t?

Managing your items is done through Kabaq admin section. There is a lock button at the top right side of the screen, you click on it and enter your username and password to access it.

Before we move on, check out this video that I made earlier in the Kitchen (Just don’t blame me if you suddenly start getting hungry).

Some Issues

When I launched the app, I’ve noticed that it is very jittery. I tried it on different surfaces, even on the floor which has very good texture and its non-reflective with strong light, and it was still very jittery.

Looking at the trailer, it seems that the customer is aiming the app towards the menu. Furthermore, on Kaba.io website, there is an icon showing a tablet aimed at the menu. This might suggest that specific menu might need to be aimed towards the restaurant’s specific menu as a marker, but I am not sure about that. The only thing I’ve noticed that using it without any market, the AR detects the surface well, but it was very jittery.

I did take a look at the history of the app. It was launched on October 28, 2016. In version 2.6, the developer added ARKit compatibility. So the app should have recognized that I have an ARKit compatible device and use the ARKit framework and not fall for an alternative one. I never had such jittery performance with ARKit, at least not in apps at this size, and especially not after the latest ARKit 1.5 update that Apple released recently.

It’s important to note that I used this app with my iPad 9.7 (2017), not an iPhone, but my iPad is ARKit-compatible and this app was designed to work with tablets, so I don’t understand why it works so badly. There was no option to enable ARKit as there was no settings menu, nothing, just the menu itself.

Another issue is that due to the high-resolution images of the 3D object, loading a menu takes time.

It doesn’t make sense preloading all the menus into the app when the user download it because it will take forever to download.

The app caches the high-res images locally, so the next time you load the menu, it will load much faster. Some of the menus took me a few minutes to download and I have good 4G connectivity where I’m located.

This isn’t a big problem for restaurants, as they will be preloading the menu in advanced so users won’t need to wait at all.

When using the app, I felt like I want to hide the menu, so I can see the food in all its glory. The menu does impair the AR experience, but it’s obviously a necessary feature. It would be nice to have a hide/reveal option for the menu.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the camera continuously focuses, which means that the background focus was change constantly as I move the device. The camera wasn’t focusing on the hamburger, because it’s not actually there. This lead to a quite annoying viewing experience. Obviously, the food will look better where distracting background elements are thrown out of focus.

The thing is that when putting the camera up close to the table, the focus might go back and forth searching for an object to lock the focus on as you move the camera to look around and close on the virtual food. Anyways, this is something that I think the developer should be looking at. It’s not a big issue, but for me it was disturbing.

Click the image below to check out Kabaq Snapchat lens!

Kabaq Snapchat lens
Kabaq Snapchat lens

What’s Missing for me

One of the thing that is missing for me is the option to compare dishes. For example, in some Japanese restaurants, you can see plastic food models of all the food that is offered in the restaurant. The same goes for the popular conveyor belt sushi, you have the option to see many types of foods and decide which one you want to take,

With Kabaq, you don’t have the option to do this. You can only see a single food item at any given time. Consumers like comparing things before they buy and the same goes for when ordering food.

Having an option to view several food items is a big plus and one advantage that I found that Japanese restaurants that use plastic food modeling have that this app doesn’t offer.

If I want to go through the menu visually, I need to go over each item and tap it to view it. It might be nice if the food was organized in categories so it will be easier to just swipe fast to view the next food item in that category. This might make it easier and more convenient to quickly view several food items. It could have been nice to also drop several items on the table, for comparison purposes, instead of allowing just a single food item to be displayed at any given time.

Interaction

As of the time of writing, Kabaq app included 10 different restaurants from different locations. You can filter the list by City, Resturant Type and also search a restaurant using keywords (will be useful when many restaurants are added to the app).

The app has very minimal interaction, you can reposition the food and tap and hold to rotate it. When you stop, it continues rotating slowly towards the direction you rotate it. It gives the user an option to easily observe the food from all angles.

The other interaction is obviously browsing through the menu items. Tapping on an item will load the selected food item from the menu into the AR view.

The interaction is minimal, but it’s probably all that the customer needs.

The end of window plastic food showcase?

You know, in Japan (Kyoto and Osaka), restaurants showcase the dishes in the window of the restaurant. It’s made of plastic but it looks so damn real.

Plastic food presentation in window of restaurant in Japan
This is a nice presentation, the food is made of plastic, but it looks so real.

Even those restaurants that don’t have a place to use this technique to showcase the food, have a very visual menu. I prefer that than just looking at the text and try to imagine how the food that I order would be like.

This is why an AR virtual menu app is a very economical, useful and a smart idea in general.

Food menu with pictures in Osaka JapanI don’t know about sales statistics, but this type of menu worked on me when I stayed in Japan. Of course, if the food looks bad, you better not put an image of it on the menu.

I really enjoyed going through the restaurants, seeing my appetite gets stronger and stronger after each circulation over all the restaurants’ windows. I also did in at the airport in Osaka. After a few minutes, I set down and knew exactly what I want to order.

This is why I’ve learned to appreciate the usefulness of apps like Kabaq.

Summary

Kabaq felt a bit like an unfinished product and the iOS app (also available for Android) was very jittery. It also felt a bit weird, getting an app like that and seeing an index of restaurants. Their index has a very limited amount of restaurants at the moment, but I guess this is designed to help promote the app.

Furthermore, I didn’t have any access to the admin area, so there might be other features there that can help you customize the experience even further.

Overall, I found the idea to be very useful and a good use of augmented reality. Their photo equipment used by Kabaq help business owners achieve photorealistic results and deliver a great food ordering experience to their customers. Really, the image quality is fantastic.

This is by far the best AR virtual menu app that I’ve come across. I still think that it can be much more popular if it was social and with an option for other people to share their scans of local restaurant foods.

I usually used Google for searching restaurants in my local area. The first thing I do is searching for pictures of the food that is served there. It would be amazing if other people could take 3D pictures of the food and share it with others.

I think maybe Kabaq want to keep the app looking professional with very high-quality 3D rendering and keep things in control under its wings.  Who knows, maybe this feature will be added in a future update.

Overall, mobile food visualization at its finest. A great app and I highly recommend trying it out. Just make sure you don’t try it on an empty stomach unless you are in a restaurant that is part of the app itself.

Download Kabaq free from the App Store right here.

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