Tech News : New Wearable Smartphone AND Virtual Assistant

15th November 2023

Humane has announced the release of its Apple-style AI-powered badge/pin wearable that combines a smartphone with virtual assistant capabilities for when you’re on the move.

Humane 

Humane, a startup founded by ex-Apple design and engineering team Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, has announced the launch of its $699 (five years in the making) AI-powered pin (badge wearable) which it developed using funding of $230 million from investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

AI Pin

The “first-of-its-kind” very simply named ‘Ai Pin,’ available to order in the US from November 16th, is a magnetically attached, small, round-cornered square wearable, with more than a hint of apple styling, and a camera (like a phone camera or bodycam) in the top corner. It comes in colours described as Eclipse, Equinox, and Lunar (black, silver, or white to us) and has a two-piece design, consisting of the main computer and a battery booster.

Created Through Unique Collaborations 

Humane says AI Pin’s development is the result of “unique collaborations with Microsoft and OpenAI,” which give it access to some of the world’s most powerful AI models and platforms, thereby providing the foundation for new capabilities to be added as the technology evolves.

Cosmos & AI Bus 

Humane says its ‘Cosmos’ operating system blends “intelligent technologies with intuitive interaction and advanced security” and that its new “AI Bus” software framework is what “brings AI Pin to life.” The AI Bus software is used to connect the user to the right AI experience or service instantly, thereby removing the need to download, manage, or launch apps.

What Can The AI Pin Do? 

The main difference between this and other wearables isn’t just how it’s worn (on the body as a badge), but the fact that it incorporates a dedicated Qualcomm® AI Engine (AI assistant), and uses a “laser projection system” instead of a display which essentially projects AR glasses onto your hand, enabling you to use the projection as a touchscreen! It can also an identify objects in the real world and apply digital imagery to them. Other key features and capabilities include:

– It operates by natural speech (via an “AI Mic”) or by using the intuitive touchpad, by holding up objects to it, by using gestures, or by interacting with the “Laser Ink Display projected onto your palm.” 

– AI-powered messaging enables you to craft messages in your tone of voice.

– Its ‘Catch Me Up’ function sorts through inbox noise.

– Humane’s partnership with TIDAL* enables the AI Pin to deliver AI-driven music experiences.

– The AI-powered photographer helps you capture and recall important memories.

– It can translate foreign languages and can support your nutrition goals by identifying food using computer vision.

– Its “perpetual power system” means you can hot-swap the battery booster on-the-go, thereby ensuring uninterrupted usage and all-day battery life.

– The ultra-wide RGB camera, depth sensor and motion sensors, allow AI Pin to “see the world as you see it.” 

– Humane says the Personic speaker creates a “bubble of sound,” offering both intimacy and volume as needed.

– AI Pin can also pair with headphones via Bluetooth although it is a standalone device that doesn’t need to be paired with a smartphone or other companion device. Interestingly, Humane plans to provide its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) wireless service for AI Pin, connected by its exclusive U.S. partner, T-Mobile.

– Its own cloud-based ‘Humane.center’ central hub, (which AI Pin instantly connects to) allowing access to your data, including photos, videos, and notes.

Humane says that as the device and platform evolves with future updates, so will the possibilities it unlocks.

Privacy Features

Humane has highlighted the main privacy features of AI Pin as being:

– The AI Pin only activates upon user engagement and doesn’t use ‘wake words’ (like other AI assistants), thereby ensuring it is not always listening or recording.

– The AI Pin has a “Trust Light” which indicates when any sensors are active and is managed via a dedicated privacy chip.

– If compromised, AI Pin will shut down completely and require professional service from Humane.

– Upon purchasing the AI Pin, users are invited to onboard via a privacy-protected portal, allowing the device to tailor its services to individual preferences.

– It has a phone number (it connects to a mobile network), plus it supports international roaming, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

Concerns and Criticism

While the device sounds like a step forward for wearables, some of the concerns and criticism around the AI Pin include:

– Just because the company Humane has the faith of investors and the expertise of leading AI specialists, it doesn’t mean that the AI Pin will be a success. The (still relatively new) AI wearables field is littered with companies and products that have been wide of the mark, such as Magic Leap’s AR headset failure (despite AT&T, Google and Alibaba Group as investors, the Google Clips, a body-worn, hands-free smart camera’s failure.

– The hype about and huge investment in Humane with no real product to speak of until now (after five years).

– Rumours and allegations that Humane’s founders, Bongiorno and Chaudhri didn’t leave Google on good terms due to (allegedly) taking most of the credit for work done by a larger team.

– Concerns that, in the near future, Humane could charge additional fees for “capacity” (as indicated by Chaudhri) although services like unlimited web searches via Ai Mic and unlimited media storage on Microsoft’s cloud are free.

– Concerns that the camera on the front of the badge and how it is used may not comply with data privacy laws in other countries (e.g. like smart glasses). In the case of AI Pin, although the microphone and camera aren’t always on, the camera is still visible and could prompt objections and problems if worn publicly, e.g. issues over consent.

– Other much more powerful and more well-known tech companies and brands such as Apple (where Humane’s founders came from) are already a long way ahead in the wearables market.

– Concerns that, as with smart glasses, the high price tag, and concerns over limited understanding about consumer use cases, could make them most popular with businesses, potentially negatively affecting the scope of the market for them.

– Reported criticisms about the quality of the photos taken with its camera, and the lack of partnerships with social media companies to enable instant uploading of photos to favourite social networks, e.g. Instagram.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Humane’s new AI Pin’s styling displays the Apple origins of the company’s founders, which may have some positive rub-off value, and the AI Pin can rightly claim to be a new kind of wearable. It clearly has the considerable backing of investors and was developed through collaborations with Microsoft and OpenAI, both of which suggest and inspire confidence in its ground-breaking potential.

The AI Pin’s projected touchscreen, AI incorporation, multiple ways to operate it, and its multiple functions and potential uses also make it a promising and different product and alternative to smart glasses and other wearables. That said, Humane is up against some tough competition in the wearables market from major tech competitors that also have their own considerable AI investment and products and are already leading the wearables market. The relatively high price coupled with perhaps understandable concerns that people may not like the idea of appearing to be filmed by what looks like a bodycam (without their consent), concerns whether the impressive projected keyboard idea is enough of a draw for anyone other than certain businesses and tech early adopters, and many examples of failed wearables suggest that it remains to be seen how much long-term interest there will be in the AI Pin.