Humane Produces an “AI Pin” Ambient Phone
Syndicated column on AmbientPhones.com
The smartphone has dominated the mobile device market for over a decade now. But recently, some companies have started exploring a new paradigm in mobile computing: the “ambient phone”. Humane is one of the companies at the forefront of this new trend, having just announced their first product – the AI Pin ambient phone.
So what exactly is an ambient phone? In essence, it’s a mobile device that relies on ambient computing – technology that blends into the environment and interacts with you more naturally, without constant notifications and attention-grabbing screens. The goal is to create a more seamless integration between humans and technology.
Introducing the Humane AI Pin
The AI Pin from Humane represents one of the first realizations of the ambient phone concept. As described by Wired, it’s a small, square device that can be pinned to your shirt. It has a built-in voice assistant, camera, and laser projector that displays information and controls on your palm when needed.
Some key features of the AI Pin highlighted by Wired include:
- You interact via taps, gestures, and voice commands rather than a screen
- It can take photos, record videos, and make calls/texts over cell networks
- The laser projector displays media controls, incoming calls, and other info on your palm
- It has an integrated AI assistant powered by large language models like ChatGPT for queries and tasks
- The camera can count calories and identify objects you show it
The goal, according to Humane’s founders, is to provide the utility of a smartphone in a more subtle, integrated form factor. As Imran Chaudhri, Humane’s president, said: “We want to have powerful compute with us at all times, and that’s really what it’s about, we want access to more knowledge, more information.”
The Appeal of Ambient Phones
So who exactly would be interested in an ambient phone like the AI Pin? As noted by The Verge, Humane’s product seems targeted at people who:
- Want access to information and computing power on the go, but…
- Are concerned about excessive smartphone use and distraction
- Don’t want the bulk and conspicuousness of AR/VR headsets
- Are excited by the potential of AI assistants and computer vision
For these users, the AI Pin offers an intriguing middle ground – more seamless than a smartphone, but less isolating than AR goggles. And the ability to access advanced AI capabilities like conversation, image recognition, and photo enhancement could be very compelling.
The Challenges Facing Ambient Phones
However, ambient phones also face some fundamental challenges if they want to displace smartphones as the dominant mobile computing paradigm.
As noted by The New York Times, the road to new hardware is “littered with failure.” For example:
- Amazon and Facebook failed at building their own smartphones despite immense resources.
- Google Glass struggled with social acceptance and practical limitations.
- The Meta VR/AR headset space is still working to build a compelling use case and reach mass adoption.
Humane’s AI Pin faces some of the same challenges. As highlighted by TechCrunch:
- The sparse initial feature set may not provide enough utility to replace smartphones for many users.
- The design risks social stigma and fashion doubts similar to Google Glass.
- There are open questions around privacy, battery life, developer support, and more.
The Verge also makes the case that screens provide real benefits that ambient devices will struggle to replicate:
- Seeing a lot of information at a glance.
- Consuming personal/private media and messages.
- Zoning out with simple entertainment like games.
These critiques don’t mean ambient phones are doomed, but they face an uphill battle to match the capabilities and convenience people expect from mobile devices.
The Future of Ambient Phones
While questions remain, the ambient phone concept shows a lot of promise if companies like Humane can refine the technology and use cases over time. Important next steps may include:
- Making the devices more discreet and fashionable for all-day wear.
- Building out voice control, computer vision, and AI capabilities.
- Finding the right blend between active use and seamless ambient assistance.
- Developing compelling features that differentiate ambient devices from smartphones.
- Fostering an app/developer ecosystem.
The AI Pin marks an early milestone, but expect many more twists and turns as technologists figure out what an ambient mobile computing experience should really feel like. The likes of Apple and Google are also reportedly exploring similar ambient computing concepts.
Here at AmbientPhones.com, we’ll keep close tabs on companies like Humane as they push this space forward. Subscribe to our newsletter for future updates and analysis on ambient phones and other mobile technology innovations!
You can buy the AI Pin phone now at https://hu.ma.ne/