Rise of the Concierge App
I love 2 robots. Well 3 if you want to be specific. Jarvis from the Iron Man Universe, and TARS ( and his twin CASE) from Interstellar. Why do I love them? They are funny, whitty, and they get stuff done. And they are super smart. In comparison to most of the computers we deal with.
Computers are dumb.
You have to tell them exactly what you want them to do. For example, lets say I want to download a movie for an upcoming flight. I have to 1. Turn on my computer 2. Launch iTunes. 3. Go to the Movie Rentals. 4. Find the film I want (Interstellar). 5. Click Rent. 6. Confirm that yes I really do want to rent it. 7. Hope it finishes downloading. Wouldn’t it be so much cooler if I could say “Jarvis, download Interstellar to my laptop for tomorrow?” and Jarvis would say “Yes, sir, I’ve rented it cost $4.99”.
That would be magic. And with the recent explosion of concierge apps, we are one step closer to that future.
How the apps work
The definition of concierge is:
a hotel employee whose job is to assist guests by arranging tours, making theater and restaurant reservations, etc
These new companies are using technology to enable everyone (who can afford it) to have a personal butler, their own Jarvis.
For example, you can text a service called Magic (appropriate) that promises to do anything as long as it is legal. For example I could text
“Magic, I need a flight to get to Austin TX by 5pm Friday.”
And it/he/she says:
“I can get you a flight that leaves at 9am Friday for $539. Is that ok?”
That dear friends, is magic. Of course they add on their fees and a nice profit, but it is so easy, many are willing to pay for that convenience. And the coolest part is, right now, it is done mostly by humans. Lots of human butlers texting you back, finding you flights, or burritos, or Mexican wrestling masks. But piece, by piece, that will start being replaced by computers.
Human butler becomes TARS butler
The inevitable replacement of the human parts of these services is one of the reasons why this is important. These apps get us familiar with the idea of asking for something via technology, and not having all the control over the interaction. You order a burrito, you get a burrito, and you don’t really care how that process happens. Piece by piece the human parts will be replaced by technology, making it easier and cheaper and faster.
Take Uber for example. Right now you request a ride via your smartphone, using your location it matches you with the best driver, and they come pick you up. Soon, the drivers will be replaced with a self driving car. Imagine you press the Uber button and TARS rolls up in his black SUV to take you to the airport. This is not that far off.
Marc Andreessen has an oft repeated quote that ‘Software is eating the world.’
Everything is being affected or will be changed by software. And these concierge apps are a baby step to getting people used to the idea that they want something, they order it, it comes, and they trust the service enough they don’t really care how. This opens the door for a host of interesting and exciting things. Pizza delivery drones. Food printers. Apps that put your spare change into stocks.
Taken to the logical extreme, soon, thanks to TARS and Jarvis, you can get anything just by clicking a button or texting an app. If you have the $.
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NOTE: I did not make any arguments whether this is a good or bad trend. It is, what it is. I might write Part 2 about Jarvis the Burrito Butler and whether this is a good or bad thing.
Ryan Hoover over on ProductHunt has a list of Invisible Apps, many of which are concierge type. For your convenience, I’ve linked the main ones here.
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