Skip to main content

Humane’s AI Pin looks like a miserable smartphone replacement

A still taken from the Humane AI Pin presentation video.

I should be so excited about the Humane AI Pin. It’s sci-fi-cool mobile tech wrapped up in a slick futuristic design with functionality that immediately makes me think of Star Trek. But when I really think about what it does and how it works, all I see is how it’s sucking all the fun out of smartphones, digital communication, and life in general.

If it truly represents the future of mobile, then you can keep it. I’ll stick with my iPhone, and this is why.

It’s very serious indeed

Humane launches AI Pin (full presentation)

The future envisioned by Humane is not fun at all. It’s extremely serious. This was immediately evident by the tone of the introduction video, where the AI Pin was shown off in a sterile, almost lab-like environment by two people — Humane founders Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno — dressed all in black, in a way that was more befitting of telling us about a medical product than a futuristic communication device.

Not every launch event needs flashing lights and epic stunts, but when it’s a product that’s truly different from anything else we use now, something extra is required so we engage with it right from the start. Say what you like about the silly spectacle of seeing skydivers and BMX riders delivering Glass to Sergey Brin on the stage at Google I/O, but it was absolutely memorable and a whole lot of fun. It made me want to try it out, as I saw potential in the craziness. Glass’ future vision made me say wow.

If it truly represents the future of mobile, then you can keep it.

Humane’s AI Pin introduction didn’t make me say wow at all. The future I imagined with the AI Pin was one of white walls, silver jumpsuits, assigned roles in life, and taking everything very seriously indeed. The AI would organize my life, curate my communications, and exchange messages with the AI belonging to my “trusted contacts.” I wouldn’t dare say wow, for fear that a police droid would cart me off for a night in the cells after disturbing the peace with my unwanted emotional outburst.

In Humane’s future, I could ask the AI Pin to make me sound excited in response to a message, but the most I can expect is for it to add “can’t wait” to its otherwise generic, AI-generated reply. Blimey, calm down, I don’t want to go too overboard with my excitement and make the recipient think I can barely contain myself!

All communication is valuable

Humane's Ai Pin device.

Apparently designed to lessen screen time and make us “more present” than we are when we use a smartphone, the AI Pin uses AI to minimize the amount of time we waste by interacting with online and digital contacts. It summarizes this and dumbs down that and stops you from having to do any pesky typing. It makes the assumption that all the communication you have through your phone is either irrelevant or unimportant and that it can all be better dealt with by AI.

“My AI Pin will set up our next meeting with your AI Pin” is how I see future interactions going. I saw no emotion in the AI Pin at all, which is troublesome because, personally, a whole lot of my online and digital communication is filled with emotion. While I appreciate that my job is all about writing, so I’m attached to words, but I don’t think it’s always as natural to dictate messages as it is to type them out, either.

Not only isn’t it as natural, but it’s also not always preferable. Yet voice is the only way you interact with the AI Pin. I am not going to verbally express the way I feel, send someone heartfelt condolences, or tell someone why I miss them to my AI Pin in public, and I doubt I’m alone in this. Without a keyboard, though, there’s no other way to do so. But it’s OK because I very much got the impression that heightened emotional states have no place in Humane’s world.

Replace your phone, remove the fun

A person wearing the Humane AI Pin.

Any attempts at displaying your feelings will presumably be stamped out by the AI Pin, leaving you to enjoy those pure in-person social experiences it has set up for you. But what about when you want to relax or spend some time on the mass transport system taking you back to your pod? Nope, sorry, the AI Pin doesn’t have a screen, so you can’t read, watch videos, or play games.

You can listen to music, though, as demonstrated by Humane. What music did it choose to show this function? The Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss, which many may know from the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s the film about an AI-dominated future where nothing goes wrong, ever, so it was the perfect example to use.

Maybe I’d while away a journey or take my mind off things with a snack? I can show the AI Pin what I’m having, and it will tell me its nutritional components and add them to my daily intake. Because that’s all food is, right? Sustenance, and never something to enjoy. I saw absolutely no wonderment at all in Humane’s presentation of the AI Pin. There’s no opportunity for fun and no genuine personal interaction with the digital world. There’s only streamlining, canned responses, summarization, and sanitization.

It costs how much?

A person using the Humane AI Pin.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s supposed to, but Humane’s AI Pin cannot replace your phone. It simply doesn’t have the ability to replicate all of the varied features and experiences a smartphone offers. There’s no screen or keyboard, and there’s no creativity allowed with the camera, which just takes stills and videos from its own viewpoint. There are no apps, so you’re at the mercy of what Humane curates for you and the services it lets you use.

It’s certainly not cheaper than a smartphone at $700 with a $24 per month subscription fee, either. And you have to get a new number assigned to the AI Pin, one that your friends (current or long-lost) won’t have. Realistically, you’re going to have to run and pay for a smartphone alongside the AI Pin for a while unless you’re fully committed to removing happiness and friends from your life today.

A person using the Humane AI Pin.

I don’t begrudge paying a premium for new tech, but the AI Pin doesn’t look like it does anything better than my smartphone. Instead, it apparently charges me to never have fun, be creative, or enjoy some downtime again. The AI Pin is seemingly a soulless piece of technology, which you’re expected to proudly display on your body, its Trust Light blinking for all to see. It’s The Stepford Wives meets Minority Report, set onboard the Enterprise, but with only the ship’s computer for company.

I’d love to be proven wrong and find out that it’s only the early promotional messaging that’s a bit dry and not the product or experience. But there’s nothing about the AI Pin that gives me that essential internal fizz that encourages me to open my wallet and find out.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
OpenAI’s new ChatGPT app is free for iPhone and iPad
The ChatGPT website on an iPhone.

OpenAI has just launched a free ChatGPT app for iOS, giving iPhone and iPad owners an easy way to take the AI-powered tool for a spin.

The new app, which is able to converse in a remarkably human-like way, is available now in the U.S. App Store and will come to additional countries “in the coming weeks,” OpenAI said. Android users are promised their own ChatGPT app “soon.”

Read more
Forget ChatGPT — Siri and Google Assistant do these 4 things better
AI assistants compared with ChatGPT.

“Hey Google, Arbab!” I utter these lines to Google Assistant, which automatically takes me to my Twitter DMs with my friend Arbab. That chain of actions happens because I customized one such shortcut for Google Assistant on my phone. Putting the same prompt before ChatGPT, I get the predictably disappointing response: "I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, I do not have access to personal contact information such as phone numbers or email addresses.”

That’s just one of the dozen walls that you will run into if you seek to embrace ChatGPT while simultaneously ditching mainstream options like Google Assistant. One wonders why ChatGPT – considered by evangelists as the pinnacle of a consumer-facing AI in 2023 – fails miserably at something as fundamental as sending a message.

Read more
You can now video chat with a ChatGPT AI — here’s what it looks like
Call Annie ChatGPT app on an iPhone.

Showing up to a videoconference as your digital avatar can be quite fun. Apple lets you do just that with Memojis during FaceTime. If you want something more ambitious on a different platform, Avatarify will turn into Albert Einstien or Mona Lisa for Zoom calls. But what if you could bring an AI conversation to life? Say, by talking to ChatGPT as if OpenAI’s AI was a CGI person talking to you on a video call?
Well, that’s now possible. Call Annie is an app that turns ChatGPT into Annie, a talking female avatar that doesn’t look like a glitchy visual mess. Developed by Animato.Ai, the app is currently exclusive to iOS 16, but you can also use it on macOS 13 machines with an M-series processor inside.

A ChatGPT-powered video call in action
Another limitation is that you need at least the iPhone 12 or a later model to start a video call with Annie because the real-time conversion of linguistic prompts into visual cues draws power from Apple’s Neural Engine.
The app’s makers claim that talking to Annie “face-to-face in real time time feels more natural and faster than typing and reading text.” So far, the sample videos we have seen on social media, like the one above, show a fairly convincing video call interface.
Right now, Annie appears to be pretty good at holding a fluent conversation, even though the voice sounds robotic, and the phrase pausing could also use some work. The answers, however, are typical of the answers you would get while texting back-and-forth with ChatGPT. And given enough time and improved voice training, Call Annie interactions can become a lot more natural-sounding.
It all brings back memories of the sci-fi flick Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with one such AI. One user asked on Reddit whether Annie can have a “memory” system that will turn it into a smarter “friend,” to which the app developers replied with “soon.”
This is only the beginning for Annie
Users who have tried the app note that it occasionally flubs the pronunciation of words, but once corrected, it also learns right away. One user described this experience as “scary stuff.”Another issue it has is with pronouncing words in languages other than English, something that the developers are trying to fix.
Thanks to its ChatGPT smarts, the app’s developers say it can help you with everything from learning and web searches to serving as a tour guide or even a virtual companion. We don’t know if it’s as smart as other virtual partner apps like Replika, but considering the fact that Annie is based on ChatGPT (and its vast data training model), you can have a significantly deeper and fact-driven conversation with Annie.
Animato’s App Store description notes that the AI keeps all conversations “confidential” but hasn’t specified what kind of security measures have been put in place and whether it uses the user conversations for training and refining Annie’s systems.

Read more