Humane, Rabbit, Brilliant, Meta: the AI gadgets are here – The Verge

Im just going to call it: well look back on April 2024 as the beginning of a new technological era. That sounds grandiose, I know, but in the next few weeks, a whole new generation of gadgets is poised to hit the market. Humane will launch its voice-controlled AI Pin. Rabbits AI-powered R1 will start to ship. Brilliant Labs AI-enabled smart glasses are coming out. And Meta is rolling out a new feature to its smart glasses that allow Metas AI to see and help you navigate the real world.

There are many more AI gadgets to come, but the AI hardware revolution is officially beginning. What all these gadgets have in common is that they put artificial intelligence at the front of the experience. When you tap your AI Pin to ask a question, play music, or take a photo, Humane runs your query through a series of language models to figure out what youre asking for and how best to accomplish it. When you ask your Rabbit R1 or your Meta smart glasses who makes that cool mug youre looking at, it pings through a series of image recognition and data processing models in order to tell you thats a Yeti Rambler. AI is not an app or a feature; its the whole thing.

Its possible that one or many of these devices will so thoroughly nail the user experience and feature list that this month will feel both like the day you got your first flip phone and the day the iPhone made that flip phone look like an antique. But probably not. More likely, what were about to get are a lot of new ideas about how you interact with technology. And together, theyll show us at least a glimpse of the future.

The primary argument against all these AI gadgets so far has been that the smartphone exists. Why, you might ask, do I need special hardware to access all this stuff? Why cant I just do it on the phone in my pocket? To that, I say, well, you mostly can! The ChatGPT app is great, Googles Gemini is rapidly taking over the Android experience, and if I were a betting man, Id say theres a whole lot of AI coming to iOS this year.

Smartphones are great! None of these devices will kill or replace your phone, and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. But after so many years of using our phones, weve forgotten how much friction they actually contain. To do almost anything on your phone, you have to take the device out of your pocket, look at it, unlock it, open an app, wait for the app to load, tap between one and 40,000 times, switch to another app, and repeat over and over again. Smartphones are great because theyre able to contain and access practically everything, but theyre not actually particularly efficient tools. And theyre not going to get better, not as long as the app store business model stays the way it is.

The promise of AI and I want to emphasize the word promise because nothing weve seen so far comes remotely close to accomplishing this is to abstract all those steps and all that friction out of existence. All you need to do is declare your intentions play music, navigate home, text Anna, tell me what poison ivy looks like and let the system figure out how to get it done. Your phone contains multitudes, but its not really optimized for anything. An AI-optimized gadget can be easier to reach, quicker to launch, and alert to your input at all times.

The promise of AIis to abstract all those steps and all that friction out of existence

If that pans out, we might get not only a new set of gadgets but also a new set of huge companies. Google and Apple won the smartphone wars, and no company over the last decade has even come close to upsetting that app store duopoly. So much of the race to augmented reality, the metaverse, wearables, and everything else has been about trying to open up a new market. (On the flip side, its no accident that while so many other companies are building AI gadgets, Google and Apple are working hastily to shove AI into your phone.) AI might turn out to be just another flailing attempt from the folks that lost the smartphone wars. But it might also be the first general-purpose, all-things-to-all-people technology that actually feels like an upgrade.

Obviously, the AI-first approach brings its own set of challenges. Starting with the whole AI is not yet very good or reliable thing. But even once were past that, all the simplicity by abstraction can actually turn into confusion. What if I text Anna in multiple places? What if I listen to podcasts in Pocket Casts and music in Spotify and audiobooks in Audible, and I have accounts with a bunch of other music services I never even use? What if the closest four-star coffee shop is a Starbucks, and I hate Starbucks? If I tell my AI device to buy something, what card does it use? What retailer does it pick? How fast will it ship? Automation requires trust, and we dont yet have many reasons to trust AI.

So far, the most compelling approach seems to be a hybrid one. Both Humane and Rabbit have built complex web apps through which you can manage all your accounts, payment systems, conversation history, and other preferences. Rabbit allows you to actually teach your device how to do things the way you like. Both also have some kind of display Humane, a laser projector, Rabbit, a small screen on the R1 on which you can check the AIs work or change the way its planning to do something. The AI glasses from Meta and Brilliant try to address these problems either by directing you to look at something on your phone or just by not trying to do everything for everyone. AI cant do everything yet.

In many ways, it feels like its 2004 again. Id bet that none of these new devices will feel like a perfectly executed, entirely feature-complete product even the people who make these gadgets dont think theyve finished the job, no matter how self-serious their product videos might be. But before the iPhone turned the whole cellphone market into panes of glass, phones swiveled; they flipped; they were candy bars and clamshells and sliders and everything in between. Right now, everyones searching for the iPhone of AI, but were not getting that anytime soon. We might not get it ever, for that matter, because the promise of AI is that it doesnt require a certain kind of perfected interface it doesnt require any interface at all. What were going to get instead are the Razr, the Chocolate, the Treo, the Pearl, the N-Gage, and the Sidekick of AI. Its going to be chaos, and its going to be great.

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Humane, Rabbit, Brilliant, Meta: the AI gadgets are here - The Verge

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