(Humane spells the product name differently in various places on its website, but I’m going with this style.)
I encourage you to take ten minutes and watch the introductory video, which shows off the hardware, software and services that the team has stitched together to create the $700 device.
And what a team it is. Humane is led by husband and wife Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, who both had long careers at Apple before leaving in 2016. What came next is detailed in a New York Times profile of the pair and their new device:
A Buddhist monk named Brother Spirit led them to Humane. Mr. Chaudhri and Ms. Bongiorno had developed concepts for two A.I. products: a women’s health device and the pin. Brother Spirit, whom they met through their acupuncturist, recommended that they share the ideas with his friend, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.
Sitting beneath a palm tree on a cliff above the ocean at Mr. Benioff’s Hawaiian home in 2018, they explained both devices. “This one,” Mr. Benioff said, pointing at the Ai Pin, as dolphins breached the surf below, “is huge.”
“It’s going to be a massive company,” he added.
Time will tell if Benioff is correct, but there’s no arguing that this device has a hard road ahead of it. Historically, products designed to help people use their phones less haven’t done well. The Apple Watch is the only successful product that can help you live phone-free days, but even then, most people wearing one have an iPhone in their pocket all the time anyway.
As Marco Arment has often said on ATP, don’t bet against the smartphone.
Yet that is exactly what Humane is doing. Instead of looking down at your phone, you can simply tap and talk to the small device on your chest — held on by an array of hardware accessories that often double as batteries — and it will respond by taking a photo, recording a video, playing music from Tidal or answering a query using artificial intelligence.
That last one is the biggest play here, and the biggest risk. In the introduction video, something jumped out at me, as it did to Nick Heer:
In a video, Humane co-founder Imran Chaudhri asks the A.I. Pin when the next eclipse will occur and where it will be visible. It responded that it will be on April 8, 2024, and that the “best places to see it are Exmouth, Australia and East Timor”. So I looked it up, and that is not right at all. This solar eclipse will almost exclusively be visible across North America and it will not be seen anywhere near Australia. In fact, its path is so specific that there is a marketing campaign about the “Great American Eclipse”.
(Siri got it correct on my Apple Watch.)
Getting basic facts wrong is one (pretty bad) thing, but the device’s focus on food and health is also concerning. Heer continues:
Speaking of small handfuls, the pin also said the almonds in Chaudhri’s hand contained fifteen grams of protein, which was off by at least a factor of two.
It blows my mind that these errors were left in the video. Clearly the thing was edited; why would you leave such an incorrect statement in the video courting early adopters? We all know AI systems get things wrong, but it’s another to leave those errors in your marketing materials. Did anyone at Humane fact-check these things? Or did they automatically trust that the answers were correct? Both possibilities are troubling. The lesson here is not to leave your launch video in the hands of ChatGPT, I suppose.
I’m nowhere close to being sold on the features I’ve written about so far, but the one thing that intrigues me the most is the user interface, powered by a laser projection system. I’m not saying it’s good, just that having a little user interface projected on to your hand that can track gestures is perhaps the most interesting thing here.
It’s clear that Humane is swinging for the fences here, and a lot about the AI Pin feels futuristic. I’m just not sure it’s a future we’re destined to experience.