Say you've just met someone at a party. It turns out you guys go to the same school, hang out at the same coffee shops and are both really into John Steinbeck. Now it's time for you to part ways and you want to keep in touch, but it seems a little forward to just ask for the person's phone number since you barely know each other. But if both of you have a new app called Knock Knock, you could extend him or her your contact info by just knocking twice on your phone (they would then have to knock twice on their phone to reciprocate). Not only that, but also you can select what kind of contact info you want to share -- maybe you're only comfortable sharing your Twitter and Instagram info and not your phone number (at least at the beginning of your budding relationship, anyway).
Here's how it works, assuming you both already have the app. To initiate contact, you knock twice on your phone. This will bring up the Knock Knock app, even when the screen is off and the phone is locked. That's because the knocking not only utilizes your phone's touchscreen, but also uses your phone's accelerometer and gyroscope. On the app, you'll see only the people who have Knock Knock installed who are within Bluetooth range (it uses beacon technology to create a Bluetooth mesh network). Tap that person and they will get a knock notification on their phone. From there, they can either choose to connect with you or not, and you can also select just what information about yourself you want to share.
Once that other person knocks back, they'll be automatically connected to you on all the relevant social channels -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so forth -- as long as they agree to it. If you'd rather not share anything, but you still want to chat, you can just chat through the app itself. It will instantly note when and where you met, so that it's easier to remember who that person is on your contacts list.
Knock Knock was created in part by Ankur Jain, who's also the founder of Humin, a contact-management platform that hooks into your phone's address book. He says the app was created because there's still a lot of awkwardness around meeting people for the first time. "There's the awkwardness of asking someone for their number when they don't really want to give it to you, or forgetting someone's name a mere 10 minutes after you've met," he says. Knock Knock, however, aims to remove that friction.
"The easiest way to think about it is this. In a real-life situation, say you're at a conference; if you wave at someone, and they wave back, it's an invitation to talk and chat," he says. "At the end of that, you can leave and there's no commitment. Or you can choose how you want to stay in touch if you want to take it further."
Aside from connecting one on one, you can also create Knock Knock groups for a group chat -- you can just knock the phone to instantly join the group -- and from there, group members can connect individually if they want. This, Jain says, is great for finding friends at crowded events or meeting up with mutual buddies. Perhaps even a bit of matchmaking, if that's something you're into. Even in a group chat situation, though, you're free to choose just what information about yourself you want to share with the group.
You also don't need to be in the same room to respond to a knock. Say you weren't paying attention to your phone at the party, and went home, where you suddenly see that guy you talked to at the party had sent a knock to you to stay in touch. You can then respond (or not) to that notification if you like. "It's super-low commitment," says Jain, likening it to the casualness of Snapchat, but applied to messaging like WhatsApp.
It's worth noting here that by default, only your first name can be seen on that Bluetooth mesh network. If you prefer, you can also opt for other privacy settings like to not be noticed by strangers, only sharing your initials or not displaying a photo. Unlike apps like Highlight that simply display who you are if you're in a nearby location, Jain says, Knock Knock lets you control how much you're willing to share.
So what happens if the other person doesn't have Knock Knock, but you still want to tell that person what your username is on the various social networks? Well, you can still use the app to send that info to them, but you'll need their phone number -- it simply sends it to them in a text message.
"We're launching this mostly for college students," Jain says. "They're frequently in scenarios where they're meeting new people." Also, now that there's a litany of ways to keep in touch with one another -- Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter just to name a few -- it's a little weird to just list them all to your newfound buddy and hope they follow you back. It's far easier to just give them a list and have them decide to follow you or not, says Jain.
Thanks to Jain's connections, the team was able to put together a promo video for the app starring Richard Branson, will.i.am and Sophia Bush (seen above). If that's enough to persuade you, you can go ahead and download the app -- it's available for both Android and iOS -- starting today.