What is the Humane AI Pin and can it compete with smartphones?

10 Nov 2023

The Humane AI Pin. Image: Humane

Humane aims to integrate AI into people’s lives with its small wearable device, but a hefty price tag and vagueness around its capabilities may hold it back.

Humane – a company founded by former Apple designers – has shared details of its new AI-powered device that aims to create a new era for wearables.

The company has shared a video of its AI Pin, a small square device and battery pack that can be magnetically attached to a person’s clothing. Humane said users can interact with it in a variety of ways, including a laser display that projects onto your palm.

Humane also claims to have collaborated with Microsoft, OpenAI and T-Mobile on the new product, which is scheduled to begin pre-orders next week, according to Wired.

But while the Humane AI Pin is unique in its design, a hefty price tag and an unclear idea of what the device can really be used for means it could go in the direction of the Google Glass and other tech failures of the past.

What exactly is the Humane AI Pin?

The company describes its first product as both a wearable device and a software platform, with its own AI-powered operating system called Cosmos.

Humane claims this device will remove the need for apps as Cosmos will be able to understand what the user needs and connect them to the right service “instantly”.

The start-up also says the device can be interacted with in multiple ways, such as by speaking to it, using a touchpad, holding objects, using gestures or interacting with the “Laser Ink Display”

The two founders of the company – Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri – shared some examples of how the AI Pin is used. In one very on the nose moment, they ask the AI Pin to play songs from famous sci-fi films. The video then plays a few seconds of Also Sprach Zarathustra – the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Chaudhri gave a demonstration of how the laser interface works and claimed he could pause, rewind and skip by moving his hand in certain directions, or go back to the home screen by closing his hand.

In a statement, the two founders said the device is the “embodiment of our vision to integrate AI into the fabric of daily life, enhancing our capabilities without overshadowing our humanity”.

Despite its small size, Humane calls it a “powerhouse of new technology”, with a Qualcomm AI engine, an (unnamed) SnapDragon processor, a camera, depth sensor and motion processors.

The company also the device does not employ ‘wake words’ and only activates upon user engagement, to ensure it is not always listening or recording its users.

How much does the Humane AI Pin cost?

For such as small device, the AI Pin carries a price tag of $699 and a $24 monthly subscription. The main price gives users the device and two battery boosters, along with a charge pad, charge case cable and adapter.

Humane said the subscription gives users a phone number for the device, along with unlimited calls, texts, data and access to the company’s cloud storage and AI-powered services.

“Humane is committed to building a future where AI seamlessly integrates into every aspect of our lives and enhances our daily experiences,” the company said. “The launch of AI Pin marks the beginning of this journey and the start of an exciting new chapter in AI-powered, personal technology.”

Will it compete with smartphones and other wearables?

The device appears to have the same basic functionality of a smartphone, though time will tell how easy it is to send a text from this screenless device, or how accurate the device is when someone speaks a message to send.

However, the product appears to be mainly advertised as a way to access other AI-powered services. Humane says it has a “growing suite” of these services and shared some examples of what the device can do on the video, such as checking the weather and answering questions – similar to how people interact with AI chatbots.

The company also told Wired that it plans to add features such as navigation and shopping, along with ways to let developers build their own tools. The price tag is also comparable with various smartwatches that are currently on the market.

But the idea of a laser display on a person’s palm seems to be a bit gimmicky and it is unclear if it will attract a large following, as it enters a market that is growing more competitive each day. Time will tell if the Humane AI Pin’s operating system is powerful enough to be worth the cost.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic