Humane Launches A.I. Pin in the U.S. For $700

It is not every day that a company launches a new kind of device, let alone from high-profile ex-Apple employees. Well, after years of speculation and teasers, Humane is ready to begin selling its A.I. “pin”.1

You can think of it as the answer to the question what if you could wear a smart kitchen speaker? and it sounds kind of compelling or, at least, not stupid. If a smartphone is a perfect convergence device, you can think of this as an attempt to move in the other direction.

Some people say they want to use their phone less, but a $700 device with a $24-per-month cell plan seems like an ambitious product for that niche. There are also plausible accessibility benefits to a mostly voice-controlled device for anyone who is able to clearly speak but maybe lacks fine motor control. Time will tell, but we can explore what has been revealed about the device so far.

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”.

It is just one error in one promotional video; I do not want to put too much emphasis on it. But anything this pin does requires a high degree of trust by the nature of the product. I would not book flights on the basis of its reply, but there are lower risk purchasing decisions that could feel more comfortable. Later in the video, Chaudhri asks how much a book is online by showing the pin its cover and, after hearing the price, directs the pin to buy it. That sounds great if you trust that you are getting the best price and you have no interest in shopping around. Maybe you are one of the apparently small handful who shops by voice.

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.

There has clearly been a lot of thought put into this product and it seems like the company is very proud of it. It is a tall order to compete with established wearable products. I am, at the very least, intrigued by its premise, but I find these botched demos do not engender trust. Humane is a brand new company and this is a new kind of device, so it seems like it should be doing everything to build confidence right out of the gate.

Erin Griffith and Tripp Mickle, of the New York Times, got a preview of the device, and they seem skeptical. Chaudhri acknowledges it has not stopped team members from using their smartphones. Also, there is this:

Humane established a company culture that borrowed from Apple, including its secretiveness. During its experimentation phase, the start-up created intrigue by announcing high profile investors like Mr. Altman and making grandiose — if vague — public statements about building “the next shift between humans and computing.” […]

On the contrary, Humane’s approach of broadcasting its world-changing ambitions before showing the device is decidedly not Apple-like.

But what do I know? Time named it one of the best inventions of the year two weeks ago. I am sure that has nothing to do with the disclaimer that Time’s ownership is also an investor in Humane.

  1. Copy-editing note: Humane is spelling it “Ai Pin” in some places, “ai pin” in others, and also “AiPin” sometimes, but pronouncing it ay eye pin. I am using the house-styled “A.I.” because I think that is more consistent than what Humane is doing. ↥︎