The first major consumer hardware launch is a dumpster fire

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The premise of the talk and Chaudri’s compelling demonstrations sparked fervor around a new consumer hardware dedicated to AI.
“It uses AI!” “It’s a new hardware form factor!” “Former Apple alums started the company!” “Did we mention AI!?
And it’s in this real-life use and application layer that most consumer tech desperately needs to improve.
Reviewers found that several Humane AI Pin features weren’t available or shipped obviously broken.
However, to those of us on the sidelines, it looks as if Humane just hoped some of the AI Pin’s rough edges would go unnoticed.
There’s another broader concern too that the Humane AI pin is the latest in an increasingly more frequent line of beta products from Silicon Valley in search of an initial wave of paying guinea pigs to learn from.
At the highest-levels though, the Humane AI Pin’s launch seems to have suffered from one obvious and all too common mistake that plagues companies, societies, and all of us as individuals – failing to get, or even worse, listen to, outside perspective.
After all the rationalizing is over, all that’s temptingly left to explain how this could have happened is unrestrained hubris, which the AI industry has already given the world enough of.


At least if your company’s stated mission includes language like “we all deserve more from technology,” the initial reviews for the $699 Humane AI Pin aren’t very positive. “.

In case you were unaware, the gadget first gained attention as a potential future replacement for smartphones as a result of a TED talk titled The Disappearing Computer – and a World Where You Can Take AI Everywhere that was given nearly a year ago by Imran Chaudhri, co-founder of the company.

Passion for a new consumer hardware devoted to AI was ignited by the talk’s premise and Chaudri’s captivating demonstrations.

The somewhat square device, which I prefer to refer to as a smart broochTM, offered a number of potentially helpful features. You could receive and reply to text messages, receive calendar updates, and ask general questions of the pin just like you would with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. Even more amazing, the device’s built-in camera can be used to identify items in front of you and deliver relevant data. During his demonstration, Chaudhri asked the pin to read a piece of food he was holding in order to determine whether or not it was safe to eat.

It was advertised as a gadget that would at last help us kick our addiction to smartphones. It just so happened to come equipped with a camera, speakers, microphones, a rechargeable battery, a cellular data plan, and a phone number for making calls.

I should have said that it hinted at the possibility of ending the Whac-A-Mole app game that we all play on our phones. We might regain the freedom to fully engage with the life that is unfolding in front of us if we shift the focus of our primary technology interaction away from screens.

For some venture capitalists and tech evangelists on the internet, the entire elevator pitch might as well have been cocaine. “It’s a new hardware form factor! It uses AI!” “It was founded by former Apple employees!” “Did we mention AI!?”.

All of this reminds me strangely of the hated “vote of confidence” in college athletics, where athletic directors publicly express their support for a coach’s future with a team just before they backpedal and fire them.

I must say that, schadenfreude notwithstanding for the moment, I’m personally disappointed with Humane’s first attempt’s disastrous outcome. By no means am I an advocate for AI. My line of work involves an industry that technology seems eager to dominate.

However, I share the frustration of many tech enthusiasts regarding the dearth of innovation in mobile computing. The industry also lacks strong incentives to upend the status quo until a rival shows up with a product that is compelling enough to take on the established players.

I also agree with Humane’s mission statement, at least the part about creating technology that “feels familiar, natural, and human.”. Similar to many of you, I witness everyday instances of proficient individuals finding it difficult to operate gadgets that the tech sector promotes as the pinnacle of user-friendly technology.

Technology has the potential to change lives, but only if it can be applied with ease to the problems that we all face. And most consumer tech has a lot of work to do in this real-world use and application layer.

A lot of early innovations and efforts fall short. By no means is Humane’s domed hype curve unique. Furthermore, voice-based tech interactions continue to be a weakness for even the biggest tech companies.

This particular tech story is remarkable because of how unready the device is for prime time.

Several reviewers mentioned that after wearing the pin, it became distinctly warm or hot. It is undoubtedly a problem that Humane would have discovered during testing.

You would think that the uncomfortable heating results would have prompted internal discussions to “don’t ship this yet,” given that the device was primarily intended to be worn as a wearable that you stick on your chest.

In order to navigate the device’s numerous menus and functions, users must also become proficient in a few basic gestures. According to preliminary feedback, mastering and consistently replicating the hand maneuvers seems to be quite challenging.

This isn’t a situation where your grandparents are unintentionally making fun of a kind Apple store employee. How can the rest of us hope to navigate a device menu reliably if tech experts can’t?

It appears that the media engagement team of the company also behaved strangely during the first launch review phase.

Reviewers discovered that a number of Humane AI Pin features were either clearly broken when shipped, or unavailable altogether. For a release of cutting-edge technology, early bugs are typical. It’s peculiar that, contrary to standard tech marketing relations procedure, Humane did not pre-brief the reviewers about capabilities that still require further development. Perhaps Humane did give reviewers a heads-up, and they all just forgot about it.

On the other hand, it appears to those of us on the outside that Humane merely hoped some of the AI Pin’s flaws would go unnoticed.

Another more general worry is that Silicon Valley is producing a growing number of beta products, such as the Humane AI pin, in an effort to find a first wave of paying test subjects from which to learn.

On the most serious level, however, it appears that the Humane AI Pin’s introduction was marred by a single, glaring, and all too typical error that befalls businesses, communities, and each of us personally: failing to consider, or worse, pay attention to, outside opinions.

This result feels even more frustrating and trite, and I’d be surprised if the company didn’t collect testing data from outside product testers.

When all the rationalizing is done, it’s tempting to think that only unbridled hubris—which the AI industry has already given the world plenty of—remains to explain how this could have happened.

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