The AI Device No-Taste-Test

Humane and Meta and Rabbit, oh my!
The AI Gadget That Can Make Your Life Better
...and Two That Definitely Won’t

Given the hype – and ridicule – around three new AI gadgets: Humane's AI Pin, Meta's Ray-Ban Smartglasses, and Rabbit's R1, Joanna Stern smartly decided to try them all together in a sort of taste-test. Or no-taste-test, as it were.

The Rabbit R1 and the Humane AI Pin are more science project than finished product. In my weeks of testing them, I often wondered: What did I do to deserve this? The error messages. The delayed response times. The always-dead batteries. My 2-year-old heard the Humane pin say β€œInput passcode” so many times he started running around the house yelling it.

Meanwhile, Meta has made a simple, smartly priced gadget that should be the envy of other tech giants.

She's perhaps being a bit too kind to Meta here, as in her video review, Meta seems fairly unreliable as well – as it clearly was for The New York Times a few weeks back in beta – but I think the key takeaway is also that Meta is the only one that doesn't drastically over-promise what it says its device can do. And in the current shitty state of this world, you get credit just for that!

On the other hand, to be fair to the AI Pin and the R1, only one of these products was (co)created by a trillion dollar company. The other two, of course, are startups. Albeit very well-capitalized startups, so you don't have to feel so badly for them. After all, they did this to themselves, with the immense build-up of hype leading up to their respective launches. Humane's, in my view, was more overt and more of an obvious own-goal. Rabbit's was more organic – well, as organic as one can be launching on stage at CES, which is only slightly better than launching on stage at TED – but its cheaper price led far more to pre-order the device. Which is not a good thing in hindsight!

The smartest – quite literally – thing Meta may have done though is simply make their device tether to a smartphone. They're not trying to reinvent the wheel, let alone the smartphone here – something which, incredibly, Humane is (or was) trying to do. This is obviously – obviously – how these early gadgets should be set up to work. Maybe in 2034 you won't need to carry around your smartphone – maybe, though I'd be we all still are – but it's 2024. We're all going to have our smartphones with us anyway. Use it.1

"Getting an answer from Humane and Rabbit can take so long there should be hold music..."

1 Yes, yes, easier said than executed when you don't fully control said smartphone, which can restrict vital API/connection access. But again, Meta is making it work.