Will AI hardware prove to be more than a novelty?

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The past year has seen an explosion of AI tools and software, but in the next few months, we’re going to see a lot more AI hardware as well. Personally, though, I’m just wondering if any of this will become anything more than a novelty?

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AI is not something that typically requires dedicated hardware. Some of the most useful ways to take advantage of generative AI are simply with an app or website on your smartphone. But that’s just based on what we’ve seen so far. In retrospect, companies that are building their own AI products have more potential because they can create more advanced experiences than existing smartphone operating systems.

In the next few months, we look forward to the launch of three of these AI hardware products. The first was announced in 2023, Human AI Pin.

The device sits on your shirt or jacket and uses a camera and microphone to observe and answer questions using AI services and its own Android-based platform. Besides just voice commands, another way users can interact with it is with a laser projector on the front that shines on your hand and recognizes motion and gestures to interact with the software.

It’s a wild idea, and I got to check it out in person at MWC 2024. Before, I was very skeptical of Human’s promises, but I was personally very impressed. Not only was the fit and finish of the hardware and the brightness of the projector better than I expected, but the ideas that were developed were actually useful. Contrary to my initial concerns, Human explained that the tool wasn’t just piping content from ChatGPT and others. You’ll get short, useful answers generated with multimodal AI based on your questions and camera.

Also, there’s the Rabbit R1, a compact device with a display, camera, and some mics and speakers. It’s a handy, pocketable device that does a lot of things. You can ask it questions and it can use that and the camera to generate answers. But, beyond that, the product relies heavily on “LAMs”, large action models. what things for you. Rabbit makes big claims here, with LAM possibly being able to advance rideshare bookings, but the product isn’t available yet, so we don’t. Really Learn what it can and can’t do.

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Then, there’s the frame by Brilliant Labs. This pair of smart glasses effectively integrates AI with a head-up display. Like the AI ​​Pin, the idea is very much to ask questions and combine that with the on-device camera, generating helpful answers. Unlike Human and Rabbit, though, this device only pairs to stay connected to your phone, where the other two operate over an LTE connection.

In a quick demo on a video call last month, I saw the device in action and, while I think the teasers exaggerated what the display would be capable of, at least the functionality of these other devices It looks equal.

Will AI hardware prove to be more than a novelty? 11

But, all the while, I can’t stop wondering if these devices will really work in the long run. And, in particular, if they’re really going to be useful beyond the smartphones we all already have, and will continue to carry.

Personally, I think the frame is the one with the most potential. It’s not trying to change your phone and is very “in the background” in terms of usage. It just sits on your face, ready to interact, and can display its information without interrupting what you’re doing. The Humane AI pin is close to that, but I think the projector, while Wildly Cool, very complex in terms of actual interaction. The Rabbit R1, meanwhile, completely misses the point in my mind by being so similar to just a regular phone.

And then there is the pricing. The Human AI Pin is expensive at $800 plus a monthly subscription. The Rabbit R1 is in impulse buy territory at $200, and the frame splits the difference at $350. There is only one human being Really It needs to prove what its device is really capable of and why it’s not just a fun gadget.

But, even with pricing in the equation, I still struggle to understand why such AI hardware products exist. They’re not doing anything fundamentally new, they’re just doing it in a new way. YouTuber Dave 2D Really nailed this topic in a recent video that you should definitely check out.

I think that, when the dust finally settles, ideas will emerge from these devices that make their way into AI hardware that eventually makes sense alongside the smartphone. But, for now? I’m skeptical, to say the least.

The Humane AI Pin, Rabbit R1, and Frame will all (probably) ship this month – the AI ​​Pin starts shipping next week – though it’s worth noting that both the AI ​​Pin and the R1 were originally slated for March. . I’m sure that’s fine.

This week’s top news

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