New gestures emerge when the way we use the web changes. Clicks followed the mouse. Pinch-and-zoom and swipe accompanied mobile touchscreens. Now, as objects go online and APIs make sharing data standard across the web, Narendra Rocherolle is hoping the peck could be next.
“It’s the missing gesture,” says Rocherolle, who last year year founded Peck, an app that aims to make the web’s most important information available at the tap of a fingertip. ”Somehow we do not have online version of real world interactions like the tap on the shoulder and the doorbell or knock. Hence, the peck.”
At first glance, Peck is like a Twitter or Facebook status update from any source on demand. Any business, place, or organization can program their peck—tapping on the logo of the Golden State Warriors, for example, might call up the latest game’s scores and a highlight reel—and people can program pecks for themselves or their belongings (pecking your friend brings up their latest Instagram post; pecking your car shows you its current location). A transit agency could program its peck to share the next train departure. A local deli could let pecking (and peckish) customers tap their way to a sandwich delivery. Users can also program different functionality for multiple pecks.
Pecks display information or trigger an action without opening a separate app or website. Rocherolle intends for “peckables” to always surface “the most important thing” with the least amount of work in the shortest amount of time, according to his May 27 product announcement on Medium.
The digital tap already has analogies. Amazon has wifi-enabled “buttons” that let users place an instant order for certain items by pressing them. Facebook tried the “poke.” Apple’s new 3D touch for iPhone calls up “quick actions” or information based on the amount of pressure applied to the screen. Rocherolle, who says he helped create the Twitter retweet, says Peck is simpler, and will eventually work on any screen, app, browser, or even in chat bots.
All these gestures are motivated by efficiency: They replace opening and closing apps for a single bit of information, and reduce smartphone users’ reliance on notifications and news feeds. Creating the most efficient user interface is hugely important to companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
“The electronic user interface can be the difference between a product’s success or failure,” Lux Research analyst Tony Sun wrote in a report earlier this year. According to Lux, Apple has acquired seven user interface companies since 2014. Google is also investing heavily in home-grown solutions for speech and natural language processing, gesture interpretation, and multi-touch for smart textiles, while Microsoft has augmented reality smart glasses HoloLens, body-motion-sensing device Kinect, and interactive display Surface.
Rocherolle says Peck will release the app to the public later this summer, and plans to announce venture funding later this year. At launch, Peck will make public a simple programmable API that developers can add to any app or website, but for now the company has handpicked a few dozen users to beta test the product. Peck will also build a visual interface for anyone to string together data sources for their own peckables (such as pulling together your Facebook and Twitter accounts with your latest check-in).
So far, Rocherolle is refusing to limit what a peck can do, citing the organic evolution of Twitter features like the hashtag and the @ symbol. The only rule is that a peck must be dead simple; it has to be if the company wants to evolve into ”the touch interface to everyone and everything.” Rocherolle hopes that freedom could make the peck as ubiquitous as the hyperlink.
“There are plenty of people who say it has to do one thing, and one thing really well,” says Rocherolle. “But look back and people had no idea what Twitter could be out of the gate.”