Even as we move more and more into a virtual world, where everything is “soft” and infinitely malleable, we increasingly crave the reassurance of the real.

Worried about someone remotely using your webcam to spy on you? There’s always been a software switch to disable a webcam in your OS. But this physical switch/cover is far more reassuring. It provides a real sense of control unmatched by the soft option. There is an immediate and tangible feedback of its status (door is physically closed, no go).

Image from Lenovo Blogs.

Similarly, laptops have always had software switches to turn off their Wifi and Bluetooth antennas. But nothing beats a hardware switch for immediacy and reassurance.

Image from Lenovo Blogs.

In service design, an analogy would be the use of telephone customer service AVR (automated voice response) systems as opposed to humans.

This is probably also why we still use business cards, even though all of our smartphones can directly Bluetooth our VCFs (virtual business cards) into each other’s contact list. A business card makes a business seem more real.

We are also (currently anyway) more willing to pay more for physical objects than we do virtual ones. Printed books vs ebooks for example! We will pay for a magazine or newspaper, but expect to read it online for free. We will pay for our computing hardware, TVs, or disc players; and yet many expect to be able to download movies and software for nothing.

What does this mean for businesses as we all start moving more and more into the virtual way to relate to each other? How do we build virtual reassurance that is as powerful as physical ones?