"Most of the time, nothing happens."

Humane AI Pin Review: Not Even Close
AI gadgets might be great. But not today, and not this one.

The most "yikes" review I can recall reading in quite some time. From start to finish, David Pierce makes it abundantly clear that not only is the Humane AI Pin not worth $699 (and $24/month), it's not worth anything, right now. It's worthless. Because it basically doesn't work more often than it does.

Pierce kicks off with this and it's actually quite generous to the potential market for such a device:

I came into this review with two big questions about the AI Pin. The first is the big-picture one: is this thing… anything? In just shy of two weeks of testing, I’ve come to realize that there are, in fact, a lot of things for which my phone actually sucks. Often, all I want to do is check the time or write something down or text my wife, and I end up sucked in by TikTok or my email or whatever unwanted notification is sitting there on my screen. Plus, have you ever thought about how often your hands are occupied with groceries / clothes / leashes / children / steering wheels, and how annoying / unsafe it is to try to balance your phone at the same time? I’ve learned I do lots of things on my phone that I might like to do somewhere else. So, yeah, this is something. Maybe something big. AI models aren’t good enough to handle everything yet, but I’ve seen enough glimmers of what’s coming that I’m optimistic about the future.

While it is, of course, admirable to try to do something new, the problem I've always had in thinking about his device is not that the smartphone does everything it can do better, it's that actually the Apple Watch already fills basically all the voids listed above.1 And yes, would clearly seem to do all of the above far better than the AI Pin – also, amazingly, cheaper, depending on which model you buy.

But, but, but AI! Look, AI is coming everywhere, fast. If that doesn't include the Apple Watch soon, I'll be shocked. Also, Siri is AI. Yes, it sucks, but it's still AI. And for as much as we all shit on Siri, it sounds like it sucks less than the AI Pin's AI. I can't believe I'm defending Siri, that's how brutal this review is.2

Every time it seems like Pierce is giving the device a compliment, WHAM:

Having the thing right there did make me use it more, sometimes for things I wouldn’t have bothered to pull out my phone to do. It feels a little like the early days of Alexa and Siri a decade ago, when you discovered that saying “set a timer for 10 minutes” beats opening your phone’s Clock app by a mile — and you can do it with sticky fingers, too.

Except, oh wait, the AI Pin can’t set an alarm or a timer. It can’t add things to your calendar, either, or tell you what’s already there. You can create notes and lists — which appear in the Humane Center web app that is also where you connect the device to your contacts and review your uploaded photos — but if you try to add something to the list later, it’ll almost always fail for some reason. The problem with so many voice assistants is that they can’t do much — and the AI Pin can do even less.


Every time the AI Pin tries to do seemingly anything, it has to process your query through Humane’s servers, which is at best quite slow and at worst a total failure. Asking the AI Pin to write down that the library book sale is next week: handy! Waiting for 10 seconds while it processes, processes, and then throws a generic “couldn’t add that” error message: less handy. I’d estimate that half the time I tried to call someone, it simply didn’t call. Half the time someone called me, the AI Pin would kick it straight to voicemail without even ringing. After many days of testing, the one and only thing I can truly rely on the AI Pin to do is tell me the time.

You know what tells the time, and much faster than an audible pin? Well, any watch. But also yes, the Apple Watch.

The more I tested the AI Pin, the more it felt like the device was trying to do an awful lot and the hardware simply couldn’t keep up. For one, it’s pretty much constantly warm. In my testing, it never got truly painfully hot, but after even a few minutes of using it, I could feel the battery like a hand warmer against my skin. Bongiorno says the warmth can come from overuse or when you have a bad signal and that the device is aggressive about shutting down when it gets too hot. I’ve noticed: I use the AI Pin for more than a couple of minutes, and I get notified that it has overheated and needs to cool down. This happened a lot in my testing (including on a spring weekend in DC and in 40-degree New York City, where it was the only warm thing in sight).

The battery life is similarly rough. The AI Pin ships with two battery boosters, a charging case, and a desk charger, and you’ll make heavy use of all of it. I went through both boosters and the AI Pin’s smaller internal battery in the course of just a few hours of heavy testing. At one point, the AI Pin and a booster went from fully charged to completely dead in five hours, all while sitting untouched in my backpack. This thing is trying to do an awful lot, and it just doesn’t seem able to keep up.

Double ouch.

At this point, even just posting these excerpts feels like piling on, but one more thing that is central to this device:

The closest thing the AI Pin has to a screen is its “Laser Ink” projector. You summon it by tapping once on the touchpad or by asking it to “show me” something. If the AI Pin is speaking something to you aloud, you can also pick up your hand, and it will switch to projecting the text instead. The projector is also how you access settings, unlock your device, and more.

Whenever it wants to project, the AI Pin first sends a green dot looking for your hand. (It will only project on a hand, so my dream of projecting all my texts onto the sides of buildings is sadly dead.) After a few minutes, I memorized the sweet spot: about ribcage-high and a few inches away from my body. The projector’s 720p resolution is crap, and it only projects green light, but it does a good-enough job of projecting text onto your hand unless you’re in bright light, and then it’s just about invisible.

The projector’s user interface is — how can I put this nicely? — bananas. To unlock your device, which you have to do every time you magnetically reattach the AI Pin, you move your hand forward and backward through a series of numbers and then pinch your thumb and forefinger together to select a number. It feels a bit like sliding a tiny trombone. Once you’re unlocked, you see a homescreen of sorts, where you can see if you’ve gotten any recent texts or calls and tap your fingers through a menu of the time, the date, and the weather. To scroll, you tilt your hand forward and backward very slightly. To get to settings, you move your hand away from your body — but not too far, or the projector loses you — until a new radial menu comes up. To navigate that menu, you’re supposed to roll your hand around like there’s a marble in your palm. I swear to you, I never once managed to select the correct icon the first time. It’s way too many interaction systems to memorize, especially when none of them work very well.

What on Earth is the point of this? Humane undoubtedly could have cut the BOM and thus, the price, had they just scrapped this weird superfluous projector. In such cases, you simply must always think of Dr. Ian Malcom, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should." Sure, Apple falls victim from this from time to time too – see: the TouchBar and more recently, EyeSight on the Vision Pro – but Apple can afford such mistakes, quite literally. A startup cannot, sadly.

To that end, it's easy to forget that Humane is still a startup. And it sucks to dunk on startups because all the odds are already against them. But Humane also brought more scrutiny upon themselves with their weird, hyped-up promotion well ahead of shipping.3 Again, this is part of Apple's playbook dating back to at least the "1984" ad, which Humane called back to, naturally. And yes, the founders here come from Apple. But this was all just a huge and obvious PR mistake from the get-go. Underdogs, again, which all startups are, must underpromise and overdeliver. The opposite is always going to be assumed in the early days of a company – that's how it goes. And so benefits of the doubt are granted as is leeway. Unless you try to invert this natural order so overtly.4

There's so much more to say about all this. Less about Humane, more about newfangled hardware and AI in general. Soon.

Using the AI Pin feels like wishing on a star: you just close your eyes and hope for the best. Most of the time, nothing happens.

I highly recommend watching Pierce's accompanying video below as well. He'll laugh and you'll laugh. And he hits on the Apple Watch point at the end.5

1 It does have a camera, which the Apple Watch does not. That's arguably the most interesting aspect of the device -- and perhaps any AI device. Unfortunately, this aspect of the AI Pin seems to work as well as the rest of the device...

2 Larry David, eat your heart out:

In general, I would say that for every successful interaction with the AI Pin, I’ve had three or four unsuccessful ones. I’ll ask the weather in New York and get the right answer; then, I’ll ask the weather in Dubai, and the AI Pin tells me that “the current weather in Dubai is not available for the provided user location in New York.” I’ll ask about “the thing with the presidents in South Dakota,” and it’ll correctly tell me I mean Mount Rushmore, but then it will confidently misidentify the Brooklyn Bridge as the Triborough Bridge. And half the time — seriously, at least half — I don’t even get an answer. The system just waits, and waits, and fails.

3 With a TED talk, no less.

4 Rabbit runs this same risk, of course.

5 Also when he accidentally almost texts someone who he hasn't talked to since college, I'm triggered. I won't use any voice-based messaging capabilities for this reason. And a few times on my phone while trying to do something else, Siri has misheard me and started calling someone. And without fail, it's always the person you least want to call – or just have known you tried to call – in the entire world.