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Humane AI Pin Looking for Buyers as “Post-Smartphone” Devices Flop

Last Updated May 22, 2024 2:08 PM
James Morales
Last Updated May 22, 2024 2:08 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Humane’s AI Pin and the Rabbit R1 have been positioned as “post-smartphone” AI devices.
  • But both devices have been slammed by reviewers.
  • Now, Humane is reportedly looking for a buyer.

The Rabbit R1 and Humane’s AI Pin were both branded as smartphone alternatives for the AI era. But since the two devices started shipping to customers in April, neither has been especially well-received.

Following a difficult launch, Humane is now reportedly  looking for buyers at a valuation of between between $750 million and $1 billion. (The startup was valued at $850 million in its last funding round.) And things aren’t looking much better for Rabbit. 

Humane for Sale After AI Pin Flop

Founded in 2018 by former Apple executives Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, Humane’s vision for a screenless, voice-centric AI device generated a lot of buzz when it was unveiled in November 2023.

But after the first units shipped in April, reviews were overwhelmingly negative. 

The influential YouTube gadget guru Marques Brownlee called it “probably the worst product I’ve ever reviewed.” Meanwhile, TechRadar condemned  the AI Pin as an “undercooked flop.”

Since its initial release, owners have turned to social media and consumer review platforms en masse to report poor battery life, slow response times and a generally underwhelming user experience.

Given these early rebukes of the company’s flagship product, it’s hard to imagine Humane attracting offers at the upper end of what its owners want. Even the low end might be a struggle. 

However, there is one consolation for the startup. The AI Pin isn’t the only “post-smartphone” AI device that hasn’t delivered.

Rabbit R1 Fails to Live up to Expectations

When it debuted at CES 2024, the Rabbit R1 delighted visitors to the annual technology fair, who were impressed by its novel take on human-AI interaction. 

Like the AI Pin, the R1 is designed to respond to voice inputs. Envisaged as a more intuitive and capable successor to Siri-style mobile assistants, the device is powered by a “large action model” that its manufacturers claim can connect to a near-limitless range of digital interfaces.

A slick promotion video showcased a range of impressive capabilities. But when customers received their devices, many reported that they were unable to perform the same tasks that made the R1 such a hit in the first place.

Brownlee’s verdict  that the device was “barely reviewable” places the R1 only slightly above the low bar set by the AI Pin. To be fair, he acknowledged that “it does feel significantly quicker to answer questions than the Humane than the AI Pin.” However, those answers were frequently wrong.

Don’t Bin Your Smartphone Yet

For devices that promised to usher in a new, post-smartphone technology, the AI Pin and the Rabbit R1 don’t offer any advantages over contemporary mobile devices. 

If all they are going to be is AI in a box, these gadgets need to be equipped with better AI than the powerful models developed by OpenAI and Google, which are already packaged into a range of smartphone apps.

At first, Rabbit and Humane’s emphasis on voice interactions promised something different. But following the launch of GPT-4o this month, they appear to have lost even that slight edge.

Although no one has nailed the formula yet, the hype surrounding AI devices suggests the idea still has legs. And as long as the demand is there, expect other startups and tech companies to build on previous failures.

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