July 24, 2024

Archie Wertheim

Technology Integration and Foundations for Effective Leadership

Humane’s Ai Pin is a $700 Smartphone Alternative You Wear All Day

3 min read
Humane’s Ai Pin is a $700 Smartphone Alternative You Wear All Day

For months, an odd sight has intrigued a San Francisco cop regularly stationed outside the downtown offices of the startup Humane. Out of its door have streamed employees with a small, square device pinned to their chests, not unlike the officer’s bulkier, department-issued body-worn camera. “Been wondering what those are,” the officer said when WIRED visited the company last week.

Today, the wondering about Humane’s gadget is over. The company is opening up about its high-tech device designed to be fastened to a shirt or blouse—a fit that Humane hopes can become as accepted among people who aren’t sworn officers as sporting wireless earbuds or smartwatches.

Humane’s device, called the Ai Pin, can take photos and send texts, uses a laser to project a visual interface onto a person’s palm, and comes with a virtual assistant that can be as sharp as ChatGPT. By always being ready to search the web and communicate, it is supposed to quash dependency on smartphones.

The Ai Pin goes on sale November 16 in the US starting at $699, plus $24 monthly for unlimited calling, texting, and data through T-Mobile. Humane revealed the device’s look and basic functions, including web search and object identification, at the TED conference and in a Paris fashion week runway show earlier this year. In addition to announcing pricing and availability today, the company released new details about the Pin’s software and how exactly a laser inside the device turns a person’s hand into a screen. Orders will start shipping in early 2024.

The Pin is one of the first of many wearable devices expected to launch in coming months and years that are built around the kind of ChatGPT-like AI services now used by over 100 million people each week. Famed Apple designer Jony Ive is reportedly among the competition.

Whether any of them can become socially acceptable or withstand the scrutiny of the fashion police is a major question. Members of a Discord group created by Humane for its fans can’t wait to buy their Pins. But people consulted by WIRED who have worked on edgy wearable hardware, including augmented reality glasses, view the Pin as more the latest toy for gadget enthusiasts than a device set to establish a new norm for personal technology.

It’s also too early to tell whether Humane’s hope that the Pin can help people to live more in the moment will prove true, or whether it will simply provide a new way to be unhealthily obsessed with technology.

Constant Companion

Humane CEO Bethany Bongiorno is confident of the Pin’s mass appeal, calling it the world’s first contextual computer. “AI now has become something that everyone is curious about and really wants to know how it’s going to change their life,” she says. “We’re offering the first opportunity to bring it with you everywhere. It’s really touching people from every background, every age group, globally, in terms of what we’re feeling and seeing in feedback.”

When Bongiorno and her husband, Imran Chaudhri, founded Humane in 2018 after long spans working on hardware design and software engineering at Apple, they set strict parameters for their product. It needed to be a standalone device connected directly to the cell network, transparent about when it’s recording, and not always listening for wake words like “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” as smart speakers and some phones do. And the whole package should be affordable. “That really set the tone for where we are today,” Bongiorno says.

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