This artificial intelligence wants to free you from your phone.

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On a recent afternoon, I held a bagel in front of me and said: “Look and tell me if it's healthy.”

A monotone countered that a bagel is unhealthy because it's high in carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain.

I wasn't talking to some tech bro obsessed with the ketogenic diet. It was the Ai Pin, a small $700 computer that includes a virtual assistant that pulls data from OpenAI (the research firm behind the ChatGPT chatbot), Google, Microsoft and others to answer questions and perform tasks.

Shaped like a lapel pin that might be a throwback to “Star Trek,” it attaches to your clothes with magnets and is supposed to do things you'd normally do with a smartphone. will load, such as taking notes, searching the web and shooting photos. Instead of a screen, the pin shines a green laser on your hand to display text. The device includes a camera, speaker and cellular connection.

Ai Pin's new design, created by startup Human, caused a stir when it was unveiled late last year. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and companies including Microsoft and Salesforce have made a bold bet for the $240 million in funding for Human — that artificially intelligent hardware like Ai pin smarts. Will become the next big thing after the phone. (The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft last year for using copyrighted news articles without permission to train chatbots.)

Human said his goal with Ai Pin is to offer technology that will help people avoid screens and maintain eye contact.

I liked the chic aesthetic and concept of the pin. It was occasionally helpful, such as when it suggested packing items for my recent trip to Hawaii. But as I wore it for two weeks, it presented glaring flaws. Often, his answers were inefficient, like with the bagel, or wrong, like when he said the square root of 49 was 49. Also, Ai Pin's photo shoot for The Times ended prematurely when the device overheated and shut down.

I wouldn't pay $700 for this pin — let alone the $24 monthly subscription required to use its data services, including its T-Mobile cellular plan. But consider my curiosity.

The husband-and-wife founders of Human, Imran Chaudhry and Bethany Bongiorno, who work at Apple, said the updates released by its servers will fix many bugs, including heat issues and poor math.

“It's a journey, and we're just at the beginning,” Bongiarno said. “The first version is never the complete vision.”

Here's how my experience wearing the Ai pin went.

getting started

Since Ai Pin lacks a screen, users configure their accounts and other settings on Human's website. To unlock the device with a passcode, extend your hand to shine a green laser on your palm. Pulling your hand outward increases the number while pulling it inward decreases it, and you select each digit by pinching two fingers on the same hand.

The laser can be used to tweak other settings, such as connecting to a Wi-Fi network, and it can display a text transcription of the virtual assistant's responses. Human said the laser was intended to be used for more than nine minutes, but for me, it lasted about three before the Ai pin complained it was too hot and shut down.

A virtual assistant

Besides unlocking the pin with a laser, you'll control the Ai pin mostly with finger taps and your voice. The benefit of pinning a virtual assistant to my shirt became clear as I walked around and thought of the many things I had to do.

By holding a finger on the Ai pin, I could summon Assistant and ask it to add tasks to my to-do list. This feature shined when I was packing for my vacation to Hawaii and adding items including t-shirts and swim trunks to my packing list. When I asked Pin to recommend other items to pack for his trip, he recommended a hat, sunscreen, and other accessories. very cool

However, the Ai pin was less helpful in some other situations. When I was in Hawaii this month, I struggled to remember the name of a food truck near my hotel that serves loco moco, so I asked the assistant to look it up for me. It said no such food truck was found, causing me to search on my phone.

Language Interpreter

A key feature of Ai Pin is its ability to translate conversations into other languages ​​in real-time. By holding a finger on a pin, I can set a language to translate, such as Mandarin. When I put two fingers down on the pin and said a phrase in English, the Ai pin said it in Mandarin and vice versa.

I tried it with several other languages, including Spanish, French, and Indonesian. I confirmed that the translator was generally correct, although with the English to Mandarin conversion, he mistranslated “good morning” to “da jia hao”, which means “hello, everyone”.

Will you see it?

Human includes a feature called Vision on the Ai Pin, which is labeled “Beta” to indicate that it is incomplete. The device uses its camera and AI to analyze your surroundings and provide information about what you're looking at. This is what led to my weird experience with a beagle, which only got weirder when I asked more questions.

I asked Pin how to make a bagel tastier, and he proceeded to explain how to make a bagel from scratch. Finally, I asked Pin to come up with suggestions for sandwiches that could be made with bagels. He came up with a long list of ideas, including chickpea salad sandwiches with green chutney, sloppy joes and cucumber sandwiches.

On vacation, I visited a botanical garden and asked Pin to identify a flower. “The flower is yellow with red stripes inside,” Pinn said. That was correct, but it didn't answer my question.

“This is Solandra Maxima,” said my wife. He took a photo of the flower with his phone and uploaded it to Google Images Search. I felt a little sheepish.

Human said he is constantly working to improve the vision feature.

Phone accessories

Like a smartphone, the Ai Pin has its own phone number and cellular data connection for making phone calls and playing music, and its camera can be used to shoot photos and videos.

This is where the Ai pin particularly under-delivers. For something designed to let you spend less time on your phone, it's no better than a smartphone at any of these tasks. Photos and videos taken with the camera appear dim and blurry. To make a phone call, you can ask Assistant to call someone in your address book, but to dial a new number, you type in digits. For music, the device currently only works with Tidal, an unpopular music streaming service.

Bongierno said the Ai pin let him take sharper photos without getting in the way of the screen. But to me it was a loss. Without a viewfinder, photos looked poorly framed.

The bottom line

While the Ai pin was useful and impressive at times, it was inaccurate, unhelpful or insufficient to get me back to my phone.

Gary Marks, an AI entrepreneur, said that the mistakes AI made, like with Beagle, were the result of so-called illusions, when the AI ​​has a tendency to guess and make things up when it doesn't get the right answer. This is a problem that many AI technologies, including ChatGPT and Google's Gemini, are solving.

Bongierno admits to having hallucinations with Gemini, the technology behind Ai Pin's Vision feature. He added that the technology will improve rapidly with user feedback and that the company has already fine-tuned the pin response on bagels.

No company yet has AI technology sophisticated enough to reliably answer virtual assistant questions, Marks said.

“It's almost like a broken clock that goes right twice a day,” he said. “It's fine some of the time, but you don't know what part of the time, and that makes it less valuable.”

Nevertheless, there is a kernel of an idea that should be preserved. I liked having the assistant on my shirt when it was really helpful. I'll pin my hopes on a future iteration of the product – perhaps a cheaper one that lacks the camera and laser.

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