What we can learn from the story of Humane’s AI Pin

AI Pin, created by the startup Humane, was described as a modern AI device that could replace your phone. Yet now, after a bunch of reviews by tech journalists – many of which were negative – it’s certain that it falls short of being a viable alternative to a phone. The future of the device now seems gloomy.

For those who don’t know, the AI Pin is a small, screenless device, similar in form to a wireless earbuds case, which magnetically clips to your clothes. It doesn’t connect to your phone and is supposed to perform most of the things you can do with your phone using voice commands – or projecting a laser beam light onto your palm.

AI Pin was a highly anticipated device. It got so much attention because Humane was founded by Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, ex-Apple designers, who were able to raise $230 million from Open AI’s CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft, Qualcomm Ventures, and other notable investors.

Multiple issues

However, according to multiple reviews, there aren’t enough features of the device worth praising apart from design and intuitive controls. AI Pin appears to be a solid, high-end device, with its logo resembling the famous bitten apple that can be found on all iPhones. Yet most of the device’s other features don’t seem compelling at all.

Popular Youtuber Marques Brownlee called AI Pin “the worst product he has ever reviewed” sparking the debate whether such a comment may be enough to bankrupt the company. Other reviewers and tech journalists also found AI Pin to be buggy and will not be replacing your phone anytime soon.

For starters, the device – that’s supposed to clip to your clothes magnetically – overheats, creating a feeling of warmth and potentially leading to problems such as reduced battery life, hardware damage, or even safety issues.

Multiple reviewers also said that the battery life of the device was an issue. Even though AI Pin comes with its own battery and two extras (called “boosters”), it rarely lasted a full day of testing.

Another problem seems to be AI Pin’s speed. It’s powered by Humane AI’s large language model and Open AI software, and the device must connect to the cloud to reply to most inquiries. Very often, it takes more than a few seconds to provide an answer. The same inquiries can be processed much faster using a phone.

But the biggest problem of all seems to be that the AI Pin just doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. It sometimes gives irrelevant answers to inquiries, does something different than expected, and mishears questions even when asked in a quiet room.

The $700 price tag seems too high for a screenless device with so many bugs. AI Pin also comes with a $24 monthly subscription for its AI capabilities and mobile network operator, which means another $300 a year for the user.

Not ready for market

It’s unclear why the founders of Humane decided to start shipping the device despite bugs that they were surely aware of. Reviewers who tested the device found quite a few issues, and more will likely be found by users who’ve already ordered an AI Pin.

After reading the reviews, it becomes evident that shipping a product with so many bugs and other issues is a bad idea. Most tech journalists and reviewers appreciate the work companies put into designing products and very well know that it may take more than one generation to develop a quality device, especially taking into account that a device is basically the first of its kind.

But there has to be some element of quality. Charging people $700 and a $24 subscription for the AI capabilities that don’t work as advertised just seems way too much.

It’s obvious that the decision to sell the unfinished and buggy products isn’t a good option from a marketing and PR standpoint. Who will want to buy a device after watching a video by a famous YouTuber calling it the worst it has ever reviewed?

Even if Humane delivers a much better version of the device sometime in the future, the negative reputation associated with the product and the brand might not be forgotten. In the future, users may lean towards products from competitors that prioritize thorough testing and readiness for the market launch rather than rushing to release a device that isn’t fully prepared. And with ongoing AI hype, we can be certain that soon we will see more similar products.

Yet now, it seems that no AI device can replace our phones anytime soon. For now, wearable AI assistants can only be complementary devices to our phones. But do we really need them if a smartphone is good enough?

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