UberTap and the Future of Physical Hardware

Physical hardware and digital experiences are merging in a unique way. After a wave of digital-only products overtaking traditional physical products (Radio apps over traditional radios), we are slowly beginning to see a resurgence in unique physical products that bridge the gap between hardware and software. From Google Home to Amazon Dash (Received with mixed reviews) companies are innovating in unique ways to bring back physical hardware.

What does the future hold for these devices? Could we see more companies creating unique interactions and hardware or is it just a kitchy phase were going through? I thought it would be interesting to imagine where other companies could take advantage of similar products and create a user experience outside of your phone.

The Situation

Uber has been a leader in changing the way people travel form point A to point B as well as how companies innovate and grow their product. Could there be an opportunity to use their industry leadership to encourage more “heads up” digital experiences?

The Problem

Almost every time I user Uber it is for a business trip or meeting. In these instances, I find myself in various situations where having my phone out is either inconvenient or inappropriate.

Imagine your last business trip. When you are getting off the plane your hands are often occupied with headphones, books, water bottles, luggage etc. For me, it is inconvenient to be looking down at my phone and fumbling through my apps to make an Uber reservation (especially if you are like me and own a Plus version of the iPhone) all while trying to get out of the airport as quickly as possible. I need a way to call an Uber that’s as fast and hands-free as possible.

My other problem is on the other end of that business trip when I am wrapping up a meeting. I find it incredibly inconvenient and rude to be pulling my phone out as we are closing up the meeting to try to book an Uber so its ready by the time I step outside. There has to be a way to quickly and conveniently order an Uber without the hassle or social discomfort of pulling out your phone.

The Solution

Introducing the UberTap. UberTap takes the process of ordering a car down to a simple press of a button.

When the user taps the button, it immediately calls an Uber based on their predefined settings within the app allowing them to carry on traveling out of the airport or wrapping up that conversation with the client. Once a driver is on his or her way, the devices buzzes informing the user when they will arrive. Upon the driver’s arrival, the devices buzzes and lights up notifying them it’s time to get in the vehicle (Similar to the Uber Beacon color). The user can then hold up the device ensuring they and the driver make the connection. All with the ease of one button without having to open their phone with full hands or in front of a client.

UberTap is also a great way for Uber to open a different vertical of products allowing for additional income as well as organic marketing encouraging user to clip them to their pockets, briefcases, or clothing.

Conclusion

Although UberTap might not have a huge audience and physical products may not be the direction Uber is going, its interesting to explore the idea of how we can interact with users outside of their phone and create more ‘heads up’ experiences. Physical products give us the opportunity to create whole new user experiences and change the way people perform everyday tasks.

What interaction or product do you think can benefit from a physical hardware interaction?