Not since Magic Leap has a “next generation” hardware company received so much publicity while showing so little. Everyone in the tech world has been freaking out about this new pocket protector that wants to “replace your smartphone.” This is called the “Humane AI Pin”. As far as we know, it’s a $700 screenless voice assistant box, and like every smartphone-like device released in the last 10 years, it contains some artificial intelligence. It’s like Google Glass had a baby with a 1990s pager.
This is a voice assistant box, which means it has a microphone and a speaker. There’s no hot word and he doesn’t always listen, so you’ll press a button to talk to him and you’ll get a response. There’s also a camera, and since you’re supposed to mount it on your clothes at chest level via a magnetic back, you’ll be creepily pointing a camera at everyone the entire time you’re using it. It claims to be “screenless,” but it has a pretty cool 720p laser projection system that appears to function as a nice monochrome screen that projects a smartwatch-like user interface onto your hand. It displays super basic UI elements, like a circular media player or a scrolling wall of text. A few hand gestures, like tapping your fingers together, will allow you to interact with it.
Although it claims to be able to replace a smartphone, the Humane AI Pin dates back to the Dark Ages and does not support any of them applications. We’ve seen so many devices live and die by their app ecosystems, and the concrete quote from the presentation was: “We don’t make apps.” You’ll be locked into all the features and services that Humane has built into the Android-based “Cosmos” operating system. So if you want to listen to music, it has to come from Tidal, a service with a 0-2% market share, because that’s what the folks at Humane partnered with. It is unknown if there are other third-party features. Humane’s “Cosmos” page shows logos for Slack, then logos for Microsoft and Google, which could mean anything.
Not having a screen, or at least not prioritizing the laser projector screen, means you’ll be doing a lot of work to understand what the pin is trying to tell you. There are two different LEDs on the device (one on the front and one on the top) that each flash five or six different colors that all communicate some sort of status, making 11 color/location combinations to keep track of . Without a touchscreen, typing is also an esoteric affair, with seven tap or swipe gestures you can perform on the front of the Pin for things like answering a phone call and changing media tracks. Rather than just seeing and tapping items on a screen, the interaction guide reads like you’re learning a second language. Although it looks like a pager, a one-line text output above the device would have gone a long way in communicating status.
Coming to the hardware specs, it’s an aluminum and glass body that runs some sort of eight-core Qualcomm processor clocked at 2.1GHz. It comes with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. You keep it on your shirt with a magnetic clip that fits inside your shirt, and while that back is a discreet magnet, there’s also a “battery booster” back that’s larger and will transfer without wire electricity through your shirt. . Without a power-hungry screen, this probably uses very little battery. It comes with a battery booster and an exact copy of the AirPods charging case, which will store and charge the main unit.
I suspect the processor model is not listed because it is cheap. It’s hard to know exactly how much processing the AI spindle is doing. The technical sheet mentions “Accelerated AI on the device,” but the presentation states that the AI’s responses are “streamed”, so presumably it doesn’t do much voice processing. They also save a ton of processing power by not needing to follow a high-fidelity screen Considering that the cheapest Apple Watch is surely faster than that, has to pay for an expensive screen, and still costs $300, it’s hard to see where the $700 price tag comes from.