Humane Co-Founder Shows How the Ai Pin Works After Clumsy Launch

The Laser Ink Display looks futuristic as hell. But can it really replace your phone?

Two weeks ago, Humane finally showed off its Ai Pin to the world. Last week, the screen-less device officially went up for order. There’s just been one problem: We still barely know how it works.

Humane invited a small number of media outlets, including Inverse, to its launch event. We got to see and touch the $699 Ai Pin, but not actually use it — that was performed by Humane staff. The company then released a strange video in which co-founders Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri demoed the device. But instead of the popular response Humane was hoping for, people called the video low-energy and complained that it didn’t actually explain how Ai Pin works or what it can do.

Humane is now on the defense, and Bongiorno has been busy sharing videos of the Ai Pin on social media to explain how it works. Humane probably should have put all of this information in its official launch video instead of posting them piecemeal on X, but better late than never, right?

Here’s a video of Bongiorno using the Ai Pin’s “Laser Ink Display” projector to send a short message to a contact. It’s perhaps the best footage of how to use various hand gestures and tilts to navigate around the interface. Bongiorno wrote on X: “This is just to answer the question — can you reply to or send a message without talking to your Ai Pin? Yes.”

Does it look clumsy? A little bit. Is it slower than using a phone? It does seem to take many steps to get to the compose screen. But is it also futuristic as hell? Yes — yes, it is.

“Too many clicks and requires hand to be too stable during the interaction to avoid bad inputs,” says one X user. Another person noted its potential: “This may be great for certain groups of people. Kind of like the Motorola Walkie-talkie/phones: great for construction workers, property managers, cab drivers, etc. But I sincerely don’t see a mass appeal yet.” Of course, some are a lot more optimistic: “Love the idea and we gotta celebrate people not just churning out the same stuff and actually push for something new, can’t wait to see how this grows.”

Even with the laser projection, it’s clear Bongiorno believes voice-based computing is the future. “Voice driven ambient compute is going to be incredibly powerful and enable incredible things. Cannot wait to see what people create,” she posted.

Anyone with a speech impairment might disagree. At the same time, Bongiorno says a voice-based computer is good for people with motor impairments. “It actually resonates well with those that struggle with dexterity because of the fact it's a voice first computer.”

Moving on, here’s a demo of how the “Ai Mic” on the Ai Pin works:

“Where are some good places in San Francisco to get dumplings?” Bongiorno asks while holding her finger on the Ai Pin. The Ai Mic voice assistant suggests two locations. Bongiorno then asks, “How do you say dumplings in Chinese?” The assistant says it’s “searching for a translation” before returning “jiǎozi” (饺子). Continuing, Bongiorno tells the Ai Mic to “look up a recipe for vegetarian dumplings and add the ingredients to my notes.” The assistant does as told, but we’re not shown or told where the recipe came from or what the ingredients are. The interaction with the Ai Pin ends with Bongiorno sending a message to her husband Imran and then adding another person to the message.

The Ai Mic’s ability to understand context and juggle multiple tasks seems impressive. Certainly more advanced than Siri, Alexa, or the Google Assistant. But we’ll have to see how well it handles sequential prompts when regular people get their hands on it.

Also, apparently, you can swipe up and down on the front of the Ai Pin to increase and lower the volume, as one of Bongiorno’s videos reveals.

Many people have wondered whether the Ai Pin works with Bluetooth headphones. The official answer: “Yes, you can use any BT headphones with your Ai pin, and it also works with BT in the car — so you can use Ai mic to listen to music, browse the web, take and recall notes, send messages, make calls and more on the go.”

Here’s a video of the Ai Pin connected to a car:

Seems to work pretty well compared to Siri on CarPlay, Google Assistant on Android Auto, and Alexa on Echo Auto. But how do you do navigation without a screen? Can the Ai Mic provide turn-by-turn directions by voice? Can you get a projection of a map on your hand?

In response to an X user who questioned the utility of the Ai Pin’s monochromatic projection and lack of visual context, Bongiorno provided some clarification on Humane and the Ai Pin’s purpose, somewhat walking back the claim that they’re trying to solve smartphone addiction:

Our goal was never to solve smartphone addiction or deter phone usage. It was to build a new contextual compute device and platform to unlock the full capabilities of AI. We are just at the start of what is possible.
Contextual queries and operations, building your own AI, visual search with the world as your operating system — this is all what gets unlocked.
And the by product will be that you use your phone less, or differently — just like with every shift in technology that brings around a new form factor.

As for the lack of apps, here’s the logic behind that:

We do AI experiences (and not apps) so that you don't have to find, download, manage, launch, or navigate them — so you can ask and get an answer, so you can ask and get an answer to a complex query that might involve multiple AI experiences. This all allows the hardware and software to recede to the background and life to come to the foreground.

In a follow-up post, Bongiorno added:

It's ultimately about the form factor. For contextual compute, you need context. This means you will either need to hold up your phone and be living through a screen, wear glasses, or something else.
Our belief is that a future where you can be head up, hands free, present, and without something on your face (since this is not a universal solution) — is the one that feels best.

Look, getting into the trenches and engaging with audiences is a good thing, but maybe all of this information should be — oh, I don’t know — on the official Humane website or in a video on a YouTube channel?

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