Rabbit R1: Could This AI Gadget Be a 'Smartphone Killer'?

image caption, The Rabbit R1 looks like a bright orange box – with a little punch inside.

  • the author, Zoe Kleinman
  • the role, Technology Editor
WhatsApp Group Join Now
Telegram Group Join Now
Instagram Group Join Now

I've just spent the last few days with the latest gadget billed as a take on a smartphone: the Rabbit R1.

I wanted to see if I could imagine the portable, artificial intelligence (AI) digital assistant that my phone would one day become — the one I couldn't live without.

You can see the thinking behind it: millions of people have played with AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, Claude and Gemini.

Given this success with software, it seems the next big thing for tech giants is to do the same with hardware, and find ways to physically embed AI tools.

Microsoft is doing it with laptops, while Apple is rumored to follow suit with the next iPhone.

But there are also those who are trying to come up with a whole new category of gadget – this is where the R1 comes in.

Rabbit says his new device. is “an intuitive companion” that can “handle everyday digital tasks”.

A portable AI-powered assistant that can help you as you go about your day, get you off your phone and back into the real world… you can see how this could potentially How would a useful gadget be?

The problem, though, is that a couple of similar products have already been launched – and the reality is far less than that.

Take the Human Pin – a brooch-like, AI-powered device.

US tech reviewer Marquis Brownlee, who has 18 million followers on YouTube, caught the mood when he described it as the worst product he had ever reviewed.

The R1 is available now in the UK and Europe. Does it fare any better? I will let you know his and my decisions later.

But, first, let's take a closer look.

Just ask him things.

So let's start with what's good about it.

The Rabbit R1 is a fun piece of hardware, in an age where nothing is touchable anymore, a bright orange square with a big screen that you definitely won't lose in your handbag.

It has a button, a scroll wheel, and a camera that you can watch move back and forth, as it does.

And it's affordable, priced at £159, with no subscription required.

But what do you do with it?

Well, basically, you can ask him things. It's pretty limited in terms of anything else at the moment.

No social media, messaging, shopping, health or banking, at least for now. You can sign in to Spotify or Apple Music accounts, but you'll want a bigger speaker than the built-in one.

And, randomly, you can also use Midjourney, an AI image generator. That's about it.

Rabbit R1 successfully told me the time, the weather forecast, gave me exact directions to my son's school (when I told him my location), and quickly translated some conversations from English to German.

He listed the top 20 chess players of 2024 when my colleague asked who was the best, taking the answer from a list on chess.com. But it fared better than the Amazon Echo in that department — Alexa did the plumbing for Garry Kasparov, who retired from regular competitive chess in 2005.

We asked him about some well-known conspiracy theories and he didn't take issue with them, and when I asked him who would win the next UK general election, his answer was from that day's YouGov poll. came.

So yes – getting things from the web is good. But so am I.

Is it a flower?

He provided me with pictures of the place where I work – the BBC Scotland building in Glasgow – but I had a hard time telling him where to go for a coffee.

The first time I asked, “give me a moment” and then hung up after 112 seconds of silence.

I tried again and this time it delivered much faster, but of the five options it listed, two coffee shops were 2.5 miles away, one was closed and one I couldn't find on Google at all.

The closest it came to was 1.3 miles away – in fact, the building is covered in plenty of options, with two major coffee chains minutes away.

It could use the camera to describe its surroundings – sometimes – but it cheated a lot.

He told me that there were yellow chrysanthemums in a bouquet of white peonies in my bedroom, and confidently misidentified a plate of papadomes as tortilla chips.

image source, BBC/Rabbit Inc

image caption, The Rabbit R1's “Magic Camera” filter turns your photos into cartoons – for a reason

When I pointed the camera at me, he described me as an “old lady” (deep breaths), and when my son pulled his most dramatic, angry face, he called it a “friendly expression.” ” said the boy with (more deep breaths). .

In the first hour we used more than 20% of the battery life.

Meanwhile, all your activity is stored in an account in the cloud called your Rabbithole, and you can't access it on the device itself.

My Rabbithole (stop laughing backwards) is currently full of random photos of me and my surroundings, and some equally random Magic Camera versions of those photos.

The decision has come.

Ultimately, I came away thinking that while the device was fun to try out, it still doesn't do anything I can't already do, either with my phone or with my eyes, and often slowly.

And I promised to tell you what Marques Brownlee had to say about the R1: “Barely reviewable” was the title of his video about it.

The firm itself acknowledges that it is a work in progress.

“Being a startup, it's never about winning or losing — it's all about survival,” said Jesse Liu, founder of Rabbit.

“In some ways, I'm glad we're getting pushback and skepticism now because it's always pushing us to make a better and better product.”

And don't expect the R1's rave reviews to stop efforts to incorporate AI into hardware.

“I expect to see many more devices in this genre over the next 18 months,” says smartphone industry watcher Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

“Still, my bet is that the smartphone will outpace all of these quirky products for the foreseeable future — but it promises many of the AI-powered innovations that stand-alone devices have.”

This prediction sounds good to me.

My phone does all the things the R1 can do, and more, plus it does it quickly and intuitively.

If anything, this “smartphone killer” has made me appreciate the device it's trying to take on even more.

WhatsApp Group Join Now
Telegram Group Join Now
Instagram Group Join Now

Leave a Comment