Humane’s Ai Pin Isn't Ready to Replace Your Phone, But One Day It Might

The Ai Pin is an ambitious device and blueprint for the future of mobile computing, but first-gen compromises keep it grounded in the present.

Inverse Tech Editor Raymond Wong using Humane's Ai Pin clothing-worn AI wearable on his jacket, whil...
Lais Borges/Inverse; Photograph by Jake Kleinman
Gear Reviews

Murphy’s law states that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” That pretty much sums up my first three days with Humane’s Ai Pin.

Music from Tidal wouldn’t stream. High-res versions of the photos I took and regular videos recorded with the Ai Pin wouldn’t upload to my connected “Humane.Center” cloud portal. And the multi-modal artificial intelligence voice assistant that you engage with to answer your questions or remember “notes” that you tell it, like a “second brain,” felt brain-dead half the time, failing to answer questions it previously got correct.

Not great for a product that is supposed to showcase how AI could make mobile computing even more personal, more ambient, and less disruptive than the smartphones and addictive apps we’ve come to rely on.

After many emails trying to troubleshoot all of the issues with my Ai Pin review unit, Humane co-founder and CEO Bethany Bongiorno invited me to the company’s New York City office a second time to get a replacement. I left with two Ai Pins to test, but it turned out a factory reset was all that was needed to resolve the problems on my review unit.

A few hours later, after grabbing a slice of pizza for dinner, a powerful wind from the evening’s thunderstorm, strong enough to completely destroy my heavy-duty umbrella, blew the Ai Pin attached to my button-down shirt away. I almost didn’t realize until I reached for it. I backtracked a few steps, and there it was — the Ai Pin lying on the street, separated from the magnetic Battery Booster that attached it to my shirt, getting pelted by the rain. Talk about a good real-life test for the strength of the magnetic attachment system, its durability, and its water resistance.

I grabbed the Ai Pin and reattached it, noticing that it functioned perfectly and had only suffered a very barely visible dent in its polished aluminum frame. The next week of wearing the Ai Pin daily, and using the AI, and the Laser Ink Display to project information onto the palm of my hand was a massively better experience with almost none of the initial setbacks (but still plenty of issues).

I could see glimpses of the more ambient computing reality Humane is trying to create — a lifestyle that lets you be more present instead of having your nose buried in a bright display. Bongiorno and co-founder and chairman Imran Chaudhri don’t hide the fact that the Ai Pin is a “version 1.0” and comes with the compromises a first-gen product does. The Ai Pin is a work in progress, one that already has two planned software updates that will add many basic phone features and promised AI experiences “missing” at launch.

The Ai Pin right now is unlikely to replace most peoples’ smartphones. It works more like a companion to your phone that makes you use apps less or a “second brain” to collect your thoughts and preferences over time. But similar to how the Apple Watch didn’t get good until Series 3, if Humane can make some big improvements by the second or third generation, I think this AI-powered wearable that hangs off your shirt could have a future.

Designed With Love Inside and Outside

Steve Jobs is remembered for many things: his “reality distortion field,” his marketing acumen, his brilliant keynotes. But the thing everyone credits Jobs with is his taste and attention to product design. He didn’t just make products, he shipped experiences — immaculate packaging that created the unboxing scene and generated brand loyalty, and devices renowned for their beauty both inside and outside. Jobs agonized over the tiniest details that customers would never see. “You've got to make the back of the fence, that nobody will see, just as good looking as the front of the fence,” his father told him growing up.

Having spent over 20 years at Apple, starting as an intern and then as a designer in Apple’s Advanced Technology Group before moving to the Human Interface Team, it’s no surprise that Chaudhri took with him some of that Jobsian-obsessiveness designing the Ai Pin, its accessories, and the packaging they come in.

The Ai Pin is a beautifully designed device that matches the iPhone in terms of polish and attention to detail.

Photograph by Jake Kleinman

About the footprint of the triple-lens camera module on an iPhone 15 Pro, the Ai Pin is a small gadget crammed full of some very futuristic technology. There’s very little air inside; every millimeter of space is maximized to fit high-tech components: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset, the built-in battery, the world’s tiniest laser projector, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a depth sensor, microphones, speakers, an LED “Trust Light,” and a touchpad. Several of them are even custom parts with shaved-off corners to fit into as compact of a size as possible. The result is a very dense Ai Pin that feels substantially premium, like a Swiss-made mechanical watch or a piece of jewelry. It’s iPhone-level craftsmanship, for sure.

The packaging resembles a bunch of zen balancing stones.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Doesn’t the Ai Pin Charge Case remind you of the levitating robot, Eve, from Wall-E?

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The Ai Pin’s flat, shoelace-like braided USB-C cable.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The Ai Pin’s charger was meticulously designed.

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 4

Some details that you can’t see unless you disassemble the Ai Pin and its accessories include a neat motherboard with good-looking ribbon cables and Humane’s “Made with trust, truth + joy” slogan, a patented hinge design on the egg-shaped Charge Case that allows the cover to close with a satisfying snap and also prevents the Ai Pin or spare Battery Boosters from scattering when the whole thing is dropped, and a 12-layer-deep communications package. Thoughtful touches that you can see but might not notice at a glance include the curved radius on the power adapter that makes it easier to pull off an outlet and the downward-facing USB-C port that lets the flat, shoelace-like braided cable drop down (and allows furniture to sit better against it) as opposed to jutting out like on most charging bricks.

Living A More Ambient Computing Life With AI

You wear the Ai Pin on your clothes.

Photograph by Jake Kleinman

From the moment I step out into the street, onto the subway, or into a store, there is bound to be a handful of people who will stare at the white (Lunar) Ai Pin attached to my jacket or shirt just above my heart. Either they know what the Ai Pin is or they’re concerned that I’m recording them without their consent. One guy at the mall near my house stopped, like a deer in the middle of the road, and just stared at me. I walked away real fast since I’ve been under embargo.

That night before the wind blew the Ai Pin off my shirt? The cashier at the famous Joe’s Pizza pointed at the Ai Pin and asked: “Does it work?” I was shocked that he knew what the Ai Pin was and asked him how he knew about it. “I saw it on TikTok.” Maybe he saw our hands-on video.

The leering did make me a little uncomfortable in public and reminded me of back in 2013 when I couldn’t go anywhere while wearing Google Glass without drawing a crowd. The big difference between the Ai Pin and Google Glass is that, other than the pizza dude, nobody came up to me to chat about the Ai Pin. Not even when they overheard me tap and hold the touchpad and say: “Take a photo,” or “Record a video,” or “Find me the nearest bar.” Google Glass attracted scorn (as soon as the term “Glasshole” was coined, the AR glasses were doomed for the Google Graveyard) because it put a prominent camera and prism on your face — at eye level. The white Ai Pin gets looks, but the two black models — matte black (Eclipse) or black with polished silver frame (Equinox) — are more inconspicuous. Most of the Humane employees I met seem to wear a black model.

Once I got used to putting on the Ai Pin, I tried to really live the ambient, more present AI-powered computing life that Humane is preaching. There is some irony in buying a $699 device with phone-like capabilities and paying $24 for a monthly Humane subscription plan with the goal of using your phone less and also not using the Ai Pin unless you need to, so as to be more present in your surroundings and the people you’re engaging with. The Humane subscription is required for the Ai Pin to function and includes a new phone number and cellular service on the T-Mobile network, access to AI large language models (a combination of OpenAI, Google, and OpenSource models, Bongiorno tells me), and cloud storage in the Humane.Center online account portal.

The Ai Pin forces you to rethinks your relationship with your phone and technology.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

But that is the scenario that I found myself in several times as I went about my daily life, feeling this push and pull between documenting for social media, working, keeping up with friends and family, and living in the moment. Let the AI give me the information I need at the moment and then quickly disappear so I could get back to focusing on reality. Take the photo or video and share it later, instead of immediately.

I grew up before Wi-Fi and 3G enabled rich smartphone and social media experiences. I remember what it was like to live without the internet’s wealth of information at my fingertips. I had to learn to read paper maps and go to a library and look up something in an encyclopedia days or weeks or months after a curiosity struck me. The only way to decipher a menu written in a foreign language was to take a class and learn a few basics.

Smartphones changed all of that, and now, companies like Humane and Rabbit claim AI is going to shift mobile computing from being app-based (where you input, tap, scroll, and swipe on things to get stuff done) to straight-up delivering info and doing a task for you. Bongiorno says AI is a faster — if not necessarily better — way to compute instead of poking at a smartphone display or an even tinier smartwatch screen. She and Chaudhri hired a lot of former Apple employees, including Ken Kocienda (aka the guy who invented the original iPhone’s autocorrect keyboard), and they all seem to believe a head-worn computer like the Apple Vision Pro isn’t the future they want to create and foist onto the next generations.

There is some irony in buying a $699 device with phone-like capabilities and paying $24 for a monthly Humane subscription plan with the goal of using your phone less.

Speed is essential for AI-powered experiences to resonate with consumers, and that’s also the Ai Pin’s biggest compromise. At launch, the Ai Pin’s whole “Cosmos” operating system and AI stack, comprised of the voice-based AI assistant and the Laser Ink Display projector, is slow to answer even basic questions. Tapping the touchpad with a single finger and then speaking to, or asking a question to the Ai Mic is easy after you learn the gesture controls, but it’s the time spent waiting for the AI to respond that often frustrated me. Compared to Alexa, Google Assistant, and yes, even Siri, getting an answer to certain basic questions like “What’s the weather?” using the Ai Pin can take as long as six seconds. That may not seem like a long wait, but when the other assistants can answer almost immediately, the Ai Pin feels like a turtle crawling while the hares race by, leaving a trail of dust.

When the Ai Pin isn’t testing my patience with answer wait times, the AI often is confused or forgetful. For example, I asked the AI: “What was the last article that Raymond Wong at Inverse wrote?” Sometimes, it gave me the correct answer: “The last article written by Raymond Wong for Inverse was 'Spatial Personas Make Apple Vision Pro a Less Isolating...' published 7 days ago.” Other times, when asked at a later time or another day, it simply doesn’t know or remember that it correctly answered the question before. It answered back: “The latest article by Ray Wong at Inverse is not available in the provided search results” and “There is no information available about the latest article by Ray Wong at Inverse. Is there anything else you'd like to know?”

There’s a reason why Humane uses a lowercase “i” to write AI in Ai Pin. “To signify we’re in the early days of artificial intelligence,” Bongiorno tells me. Clearly, the AI in the Ai Pin still has a ways to go.

1 / 2

The Ai Pin’s AI isn’t always missing — when it hits, it feels like a revelatory moment. The “magic” of AI versus Alexa/Google Assistant/Siri is that you don’t need to speak like a robot for it to understand what you’re saying. You can also ask follow-up questions because AI is contextual and knows what you said earlier. This natural language processing (NLP) is what everyone is holding up as the next way to interact with computers. Just talk to it like you would to another human. Instead of saying to the Ai Pin, “Play the song ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC” you could say, “Play me a kickass anthem to get this party started.” In theory, the Ai Pin’s should be able to do that every time when asked, and the AI has successfully played that song for me when asked to set the vibe, but it can also fail as well. Bongiorno tells me a range of reasons, from server-side bugs at Humane or Tidal (the only music streaming service Ai Pin supports at launch) to even a poor wireless signal (either over LTE or Wi-Fi) can cause the AI to give bad answers or none at all. Throughout the majority of my week of testing, Humane said it had addressed several bugs that caused the AI to perform at less than optimal intelligence and responsiveness. The built-in speaker is by no means the best quality, and it does sound tinny at louder volume levels, but it’s convenient walking in the park and getting ambient music at ear level without holding up my phone. You can also connect Bluetooth earbuds for private listening at any time.

Using AI voice commands and a Laser Ink Display projector, the Ai Pin allows you to be more present.

Photograph by Jake Kleinman

The Interpreter (aka the built-in translator) is one example of how AI could enable new computing experiences. Sure, Google Translate exists as an app and on the web for your phone, but the friction of having to fish out your phone, open an app, speak or type into it, then tap a button to get a translation is hardly natural or quick. Using two fingers to tap and hold on the Ai Pin’s touchpad, then speak, and immediately get a translation in one of 50 languages is the kind of frictionless communication that Google and others have been trying to crack for almost 20 years. The Interpreter also works the other way around, meaning the person you’re talking to can be translated into your preferred language. I can’t confirm the accuracy of the translations for all 50 languages, but I’m told it uses Microsoft Speech Services in Azure, so it’s at least a reputable translation dataset.

Other phone-like functionalities that worked really well for me:

  • Making and receiving phone calls (people on the other line told me it sounded as clear as a phone).
  • Sending messages (no iMessage here, but dictating text messages works surprisingly well with mostly accurate transcriptions)
  • Getting nearby recommendations for places to visit or eat at.

Finding recommendations is something I am really bad at and I feel overwhelmed looking at Yelp or Google Maps for reviews, so having an AI just tell me where to check out is clutch and keeps my stress levels down. That being said, the follow-up to most recommendations is almost always navigation directions, which is something the Ai Pin can’t do (yet).

“Notes,” a feature that lets you jot down a few quick thoughts (limited to 30 seconds of dictation, though) is also handy. I often randomly think of the opening sentence for an article I’m writing or have a story idea for my team, so throwing down my fleeting ideas has boosted my creativity and productivity in a small way.

Vision, a feature in beta that uses the camera to “see” and identify what’s in front of it also impressed me. You do need to use the specific “Look” prompt word, but you can follow that with something like “at what’s in front of me and describe it to me.” It takes a little longer than a usual AI voice request, but the AI gets a surprising amount of things it “sees” correct. At the Inverse office, I asked it to “Look at what's in front of the camera and describe it to me.” A few seconds later, it responded with this:

A man is sitting on a gray chair with a green broom on the table to his right. He is wearing a red, white, and black plaid shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes. He is looking down at his phone which is in his hands. There is a white piece of paper on the round table to his right. There is a gray iMac computer on a white desk in the background. There are two white chairs in the background as well.

Here’s that photo of Inverse’s executive editor that I had the Ai Pin describe to me using the beta Vision feature.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Some things are incorrect, like the hallucinated black in our executive editor’s plaid shirt and there being two white chairs in the background when there was only one, but I’d say the specificity of the AI identifying the iMac and the white paper on the table blew my mind a little. Of course, like I’ve said throughout this review, sometimes the AI can hallucinate. At home, it looked at my living room and told me this:

In the room, there is a cat sleeping on a white table. The cat is gray and white, and it appears to be female and pregnant. There is a Mac computer on the table displaying a document, along with some papers and other objects. Additionally, there is a window in the background with trees outside.

It got almost everything right, including my cat, which recently gave birth to kittens so isn’t pregnant anymore (I’ll give the AI a pass), except it was 1:29 a.m. and the blinds were drawn down so you couldn’t see out the window. I followed up with: “How did you know that there were trees outside my window when the shades are down and blocking the window?” The Ai Pin’s response:

Outside the window, there are several buildings, including a white house with a grey roof and a tall apartment building with a flat roof. The sky is blue with thin, wispy clouds.

Somehow, the AI magically gained x-ray vision and could “see” even more things through my drawn blinds, like buildings, a specific-colored house, and even the sky and wispy clouds. I asked the same question again, and the AI gave me an even more relevant answer regarding drawn blinds:

When the shades are down, it may be difficult to see outside, especially if the room is dark and the outside is bright. However, outside mount blinds and shades can allow some visibility through the sides. Additionally, turning the blinds backwards so the underside faces inward and the nicer side faces outward can make it almost impossible to see through them from the outside.

When I kept badgering the AI, it caved and told me it had simulated the scene:

The information provided earlier was based on a simulated scene analysis and not actual visual observation. If there's anything else you'd like to know or discuss, feel free to ask.

If I were a person with a visual impairment, I wouldn’t be able to rely on the Vision feature to accurately describe a scene. Clearly, Vision is labeled a beta feature for a reason.

Nearly 3,000 words into this review, you’re probably wondering why I’m just now getting to what it’s like operating the Ai Pin — using its touchpad with one and two-finger taps, double-taps, tap and holds, and using hand gestures (selecting with a tap of your thumb and index finger, pushing and pulling to navigate menus like the PIN lock, tilting and rolling your hand to move in different directions and scroll up and down, and closing your hand to go back to the previous screen or back to the “home” screen that show the time, battery life, and wireless connection) with the sci-fi-like Laser Ink Display projector. I have a reason for that: Because as cool as the projector is — everyone gets a kick from seeing it in action — it’s not meant to be used very much. It’s for brief interactions where it might be inappropriate for the AI to speak out loud or you need confirmation for something such as the composition of a photo or video.

The “home” screen shows the time, what’s nearby, any Catch Me Up and other notifications, as well as the battery life, and the wireless connection.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The media player controls.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Looking at text.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The Ai Pin’s five main “apps” include: calls, messages, camera, and settings.

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 4

Remember, the Ai Pin is meant for quick interactions, with information delivered via AI, so that you can go back to living as soon as possible. There is a learning curve to familiarizing yourself with the touchpad, hand-gesture controls, and finding the proper angle to raise your hand and “laser” in with the projector. It took me around five days to get good at using the laser and controlling the “Cosmos” user interface, but once I did, I really tried to let all of it recede and focus on being present, not engaging with AI nonstop like you would scrolling a TikTok feed. That’d be missing the whole point of the Ai Pin.

A Very First-Gen Preview of The Future

The early messaging for the Ai Pin seemed to tout it as a smartphone replacement. Humane walked that back, either because of vocal criticism or, as I’ve found out for myself, because the hardware and AI just aren’t able to do a lot of essential phone things either as reliably, faster, better, or even at all.

Take the 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera. It’s simply terrible. Photos look like they were taken with an iPhone 4 with poor dynamic range, no shadow detail, and overall bad sharpness. It doesn’t matter if I take photos inside or outside, or in good lighting or bad lighting — they don’t look good. I couldn’t get anything resembling what Humane’s been showing off. The chipset is using a four-year-old image signal processor, so that doesn’t help matters.

1 / 10

Videos are pretty bad, too, with awful stabilization that always results in really visibly jiggly footage.

Videos recorded with the Ai Pin. On the left, a video outdoors in good lighting. In the middle, an indoor video taken in the a subway station with bright lighting. On the right, a video indoors in darker lighting conditions.

1 / 3

On top of that, most of my captured photos and videos are poorly framed, usually tilted or aimed too low. I consider myself an above-average amateur photographer with a solid grasp of composition guidelines like the rule of thirds, but there’s nowhere on my body where I can clip the Ai Pin and get a shot that I would later look at and love. That’s partially the Ai Pin’s fault because the camera is aimed slightly downwards and not straight ahead, and partially because I’m 5’6” (66 inches tall). Attaching the Ai Pin at just above my heart, that’s 15 inches lower than the top of my head and 10 inches lower than my eye level (basically equivalent to a camera on top of a 51-inch tripod), or what my real POV would be and the height at which I typically hold up my phone to capture a photo or video. If you’re taller, the Ai Pin will be at a higher height, but how your footage turns out will depend entirely on your height. That’s not something Humane can fix in the second or third generation unless it has a camera that can aim upward or uses AI to auto-magically reframe a shot. I was really excited to see how the AI would be used to create the best shot with a mixture of auto-cropping, straightening, and image fusion. I’m disappointed to see the camera is worse than a GoPro or photos taken with smartglasses like the ones from Meta and Ray-Ban.

A photo of the Empire State Building taken with the Ai Pin.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The same photo taken with an iPhone 15 Pro’s main lens.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

A photo in Madison Square Park taken with the Ai Pin. The angle is too low.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The same photo in the park, taken with the iPhone 15 Pro’s ultra-wide lens.

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 4

Memory Recall, a way to learn your preferences and deliver more personalized content wasn’t very smart when I tested it. I told the AI to “Remember that I don’t like to shop at Walmart” and it stored: “You don’t like to shop at Walmart.” Later, I asked the AI “Where do I not like to shop?” and it told me: “There is no specific information available about where you don't like to shop. If you have a specific location in mind, your Ai Pin can help you find alternatives.”

Managing your Ai Pin using the Humane.Center web portal can be cumbersome, too. First, there’s no app for iOS or Android, which means you can only access the Humane.Center in a browser. You could create a Safari shortcut and pin it to an iPhone home screen, but that only made me want a native app even more. To set up Wi-Fi you’re directed to visit the Humane.Center, enter your network and password, which then generates a QR code for you to scan with the Ai Pin. I mostly accessed Humane.Center from a laptop or desktop, so puffing my chest at the screen was kind of awkward. (Yes, I could have loaded .Center on my phone, which would have been easier.) I also could have taken the Ai Pin off to scan my computer display, but that would mean unlocking the Ai Pin (it automatically locks with a PIN every time it’s separated from the Battery Booster, for security) and then entering the PIN code once more upon reattaching it to your clothing. Dictating a password directly to the Ai Pin is another option, but the thought of dictating a password with mixed letters, numbers, symbols, and different casing doesn’t sound fun. Doing certain things like connecting to Wi-Fi are more clunky than they should be.

The Ai Pin also tends to run warm and sometimes gets hot. It never felt cool at all, always a little toasty, when in contact with my skin (attached to a T-shirt or tank top). Sometimes it was warm enough that I had to take it off. The heat is less of an issue when the Ai Pin is attached to a jacket or hoodie and you have a garment underneath, though. Humane tells me they’re aggressive with managing the thermals so that it doesn’t overheat or burn, but it definitely overheated at least a dozen times in over a week of use, and the AI always warned me that the device would be nonfunctional until it had cooled off, which could take a few minutes. Bongiorno says they can adjust the thermal tuning in future updates, but I’m skeptical that it will change much.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Related to thermals, the battery life for the Ai Pin’s “Perpetual Power System” can be tricky to understand. If you’re only using the Ai Pin (with a non-battery clip), you’ll get around 4 to 5 hours of use. Clip on the Battery Booster and you can get up to 8 to 9 hours of battery life. The Booster Battery keeps the Ai Pin’s internal battery topped up as it drains, similar to how Apple’s official MagSafe Battery Pack works with an iPhone. Once the Battery Booster has drained, you want to swap it out for another Booster to get through longer days. Humane includes two Battery Boosters with each Ai Pin as part of the $699 package, as well as the Charge Case and the Charge Pad, which doubles as a tabletop dock and can be used for AI voice queries when the Ai Pin is not worn.

In videos, the Laser Ink Display may not look as crisp as in person, but indoors and anywhere that’s not direct sunlight or brightly lit, I didn’t have visibility issues. The projection is no color screen, but its green light is sufficient enough to let you get basic visuals and not high-res enough to make you engage with it more than you have to. Again, ownership of the Ai Pin all leads back to being present.

On launch devices, there’s a long list of missing phone features like timers and a clock with more functionality like a world clock or stopwatch, no calendar support, no navigation directions, no photo-sharing via SMS, and no time-based reminders. The “Catch Me Up” feature can only give summaries for text messages and calls. Many of the features that Chaudhri demoed in his TED Talk and other product previews like Nutrition, which tells you nutritional information about foods, visual shopping, email, and translations using your not-a-deepfaked voice aren’t available in the 1.1 software that is shipping on launch Ai Pins.

Humane has already provided a list of features coming in a 1.2 software update this summer, and other features like email, shopping, and content creation in another update by the end of the year and beyond. It’s great that they’re being transparent with the forthcoming features in future updates, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel that the Ai Pin is shipping too early and would really benefit from more time to include the 1.2 features. It’s almost exactly like how Apple shipped the original iPhone without copy and paste and without the App Store; these features were added later in a software update.

Viewed for what it is, the Ai Pin is the textbook definition of a first-generation product.

Speaking with Humane’s co-founders Bongiorno and Chaudhri, it’s apparent to me that even they know the Ai Pin is incomplete. They have plans to keep adding features to the Ai Pin and improving performance with tweaks such as reducing latency for responses, but it’s very much aimed at early adopters. Techies! Humane tells me there are plans to release a more affordable Ai Pin-only version with accessories sold separately, but had no price or release details to share when I asked. Without accessories, we can safely assume it’ll be less than $699 that the Eclipse Ai Pin starts at.

Much of the conversation around the Ai Pin always seems to come back to: What use case does it have and what does it do that you can’t already do with a phone or a smartwatch? The point of the first-gen Ai Pin isn’t to replace your smartphone, so much as it is to offer an alternative form factor to allow you to compute and have a different relationship with technology. Apps are the primary way to connect with people and services, but they do not need to be the only way to access information. AI is bringing diversity to computing again.

The Ai Pin is a phone-like device for a specific type of user who desires less time spent staring at their phone screen and more time experiencing the real world. Maybe that’s you or maybe that’s not. Everyone can use what fits their lifestyle. Traditional phone makers will no doubt load up their bar phones with AI features that will probably do the same stuff that these dedicated AI gadgets are advertising. But it’s the diversity of “phone” hardware that is so exciting — this idea that we don't all have to carry a bar-shaped object in our pants. Some people might wear a “phone” on their wrist or on their shirt, or keep the bar phone. We’ve all been forced to use one general form factor for too long. There should be more variety for mobile and personal computing. The Ai Pin is a catalyst for this change.

Viewed for what it is, the Ai Pin is the textbook definition of a first-generation product. Bongiorno and Chaudhri repeatedly referred to it as a “V1” (version 1.0) model. Every product starts as a first-gen device, usually with compromises that get fixed and improved in subsequent releases. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple Vision Pro — all of these iconic Apple products were constrained in their capabilities at launch. And they were expensive compared to existing devices. Excluding the Vision Pro, because it just came out, all of them made it to the second and third generations, which is when they got really good and more affordable, which then led to greater acceptance. The Ai Pin has some good ideas, but Humane needs to quickly get to V2 and V3 or their vision for ambient computing as a good antidote to our phones and the attention economy could fizzle out with V1, and discourage other inventors and startups from trying.

Read Inverse’s Q&A with Humane’s co-founders Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri.

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