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“AI Pin”: who is Humane, this start-up that wants to replace smartphones?

A small box to attach to the lapel of your sweater or jacket.

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“AI Pin”: who is Humane, this start-up that wants to replace smartphones?

A small box to attach to the lapel of your sweater or jacket. A priori, nothing revolutionary, but the “Star Trek” gadget-looking badge is presented by its creators as the successor to the smartphone. A bold bet for Humane, the start-up that designs them.

After five years of mystery surrounding its final product, the firm is marketing this “AI Pin” on the American market from November 16. Based on artificial intelligence, the AI ​​pin can write messages, find specific information in a mailbox or answer any question, thanks to the integration of ChatGPT into its system. As a “voice first” product, it is primarily geared towards voice control. However, you have to press a small button before speaking to him, and a LED lights up when the camera or microphone is active. Some functions are controlled using a mini laser projector which displays information on the palm of the hand, but the AI ​​Pin does not have the functionality necessary to display classic smartphone applications.

Starting price: 699 dollars, or approximately 643 euros, and a monthly subscription of 24 dollars to pay on top. A product that aims to be innovative. And for good reason, its two thinking heads are none other than former Apple employees.

Humane was created in 2018 by Bethany Bongiorno, former operating system director of iOS and MacOS, and Imran Chaudhri, engineer and designer of the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Apple Watch. The two, now married, spent more than 20 years working for the Apple brand before leaving their respective positions. They met in 2008 at Apple and worked together until their departure in 2016. A few years later, the Humane project was born.

And these are not the only big heads to come out of the Cupertino company. The start-up also counts among its staff Patrick Gates, former director of engineering for iCloud, FaceTime and the Messages interface, or Ruben Caballero, vice president of engineering. José Benitez Cong, a longtime Apple executive who considered himself retired, joined Humane after becoming "disgusted by what the iPhone had done to society," noting that his son could imitate a "swipe" motion. » at the age of one year. When discussing his new job, he told the New York Times that "it might help him get over his guilt about working on the iPhone."

A journey that fits with the ambition of the creators of the AI ​​PIN, who wish to reduce dependence on screens in daily life. Their teams want to create “more human technology”, we can read on their site. But the company does not expect the AI ​​PIN to completely replace smartphones, as it concedes to the American magazine Wired. The founders themselves are not completely detached from their devices. “Are we using our phones less? We use them in different ways,” argued Imran Chaudhri during the demonstration given to the New York Times.

Other big names from Silicon Valley have left their prestigious positions to join the start-up. It now includes alumni from Google, Netflix, GoPro and Pixar. Last March, Humane announced a third fundraising of $100 million... In total, it raised $240 million, from Microsoft, Qualcomm, Volvo, LG and the founder of OpenAI, parent company of ChatGPT, Sam Altman (15% of the capital), are among the main investors. Even before unveiling its product, its valuation was estimated at $850 million.

So far, the AI ​​PIN has only been tested by a few journalists from the New York Times and the specialist site TechCrunch. On November 9, the firm also published a demonstration video on X to present its product to the general public. Under the post, Internet users noted incorrect information given by the AI. The badge in fact incorrectly presented the viewing location of a previous eclipse, instead of answering the question for an upcoming eclipse. The other error concerned its camera, capable of analyzing images to, for example, calculate calorie consumption. In the video, the founder asks his badge to calculate the number of proteins in the handful of almonds in his hand. Error, the badge gives him an answer for half a cup of almonds, a completely different quantity.

“The launch video had two problems and we are tackling them head on. It is important to note that this video was created with a pre-release version of the software. We have since resolved these issues.” explained Sam Sheffer, social media manager, on the start-up's Discord server. It also ensures that any such issues will be resolved before customers receive their devices. “Our Ai architecture is constantly evolving, and we will regularly release live updates to improve the customer experience,” he detailed to curious people present on the platform.

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