I find something magical about products that bridge the gap between the physical and the digital. I always have. When I was two, my uncle bought me an NES. I played it non-stop for a year, then spent the following year begging my parents to let me have my NES back. Shooting ducks on our TV with my orange zapper was life-changing.
Fast forward 20+ years and replace my colorful pistol with an iPhone. I spend a good chunk of time on it reading Twitter, checking mail, browsing the web and playing bite-sized games, but until recently I never felt that visceral connection between a screen and the world I live in like I did with Duck Hunt.
A number of services have recently turned my phone back into that zapper. Companies like Uber, Grubhub, and Cherry give me the same sense of empowerment I felt from pulling the trigger.
A tap on my phone doesn’t just open a photo, “like” a friend’s status or find the next showing of Skyfall. It summons a personal driver in a classy ride within minutes to take me anywhere I want to go. It brings Pad Thai from downtown straight to my door without me getting off the couch. It cleans my car while I’m at work.
When a tap can change the world in front of you, it’s powerful.
These companies aren’t doing anything extraordinary in terms of technical complexity, business operations, or innovative goods. So what is it about these services that makes them so delightful to use?
Focus. They have a single purpose. This is reflected not just in the services themselves, but also in their app experiences. The number of taps it takes an Uber cab to get to me is one.
Immediate. The reward for using them isn’t something that will be delivered in a week. It’s basically instant.
Connection to the real world. The benefit of these services is tangible.
The things that excite me today are different than when I was two, but the reasons behind my excitement remain the same. I loved Duck Hunt because it was simple and focused. The reward for pulling the trigger was instant. It blurred the lines between the digital and physical space. I’m coming to love Uber and similar services for the very same reasons. If you live in SF (or another city that has the benefit of any of these services) and haven’t given Uber, Grubhub, or Cherry a try, I encourage you to do so at least once. Feel that grown-up, Duck Hunt magic.