A.I May Be The Future, But Devices Like The Rabbit R1 Are Not

Rabbit R1 & Humane Pin

2024 has ushered in a new slate of tech products: A.I personal assistants in a box. Looking to cause a stir within the mobile tech space, startups like Rabbit Inc. and Hu.ma.ne have each released their version of what they believe to be the new dawn of mobile computing; harnessing the power of artificial intelligence. 

Where Rabbit Inc.’s product, the Rabbit R1, is a more traditional small orange square slab with a tiny 2.9-inch screen and a dedicated A.I button, the Humane Pin is a bit more unique in that the device magnetically clips onto your shirt and is more-or-less a “hand-less” experience, using just your voice for prompts. If you want to use your hands, however, the pin can project a screen onto your palm, from which you can navigate by simply tilting your wrist. It was difficult not to be at least somewhat impressed when watching demonstrations of this Star Trek-esque piece of tech, far more than seeing the Rabbit R1 in action. Yet, the plethora of questionable design choices, inefficient and at times outright defective A.I responses, coupled with egregious pricing structures beg the question of whether devices like these are even necessary in a world where our smartphones are perfectly capable of handling most, if not all, of the tasks these devices set out to do; doing so not only quicker, but better. 

In his contentious review, Marques Brownlee pulled no punches when reviewing the Humane Pin, titling the video, “The Worst Product I’ve Ever Reviewed…For Now.” The video caused quite a stir, seeing as MKBHD is arguably the largest personality in tech with his reviews garnering views in the millions; a point used in an argument made by this user on X who wrote shortly after the video’s publishing: “… with great reach comes great responsibility. Potentially killing someone else’s nascent project reeks of carelessness.” Marques would retort in a separate video that this was his job as a reviewer, to which I wholeheartedly agree. Drama aside, the flaws inherent within the design and functionality of the Humane Pin are hard to dismiss. In the review, Marques says, “…this thing is bad at almost everything it does, basically all the time.” From slow response times after giving prompts, frequent incorrect answers to simple questions, terrible battery life, a wearable design that feels more clumsy than practical, and overall functionality that isn’t anywhere near as robust or full-fledged as you would expect from a $700 product–a price-tag that not only competes with most mid-range smartphones but also doesn’t take into account the required $24/month users will need to pay to get access to the company’s cloud and wireless services.   

Rabbit Inc.
CEO of Rabbit Inc. Jesse Lyu introduces the R1

The Rabbit R1 isn’t much better, either. Though its $200 price tag with no needed subscription is much easier to digest, those who have gotten hands-on with the product have had similar gripes to that of the Humane Pin. From the A.I failing to properly achieve some of the more advanced features its company had advertised like ordering from DoorDash, to once again outright being incorrect on basic facts; all encased in a design that puts quirky eye-catching form over proper functionality. Not to mention Android Authority had revealed after acquiring Rabbit R1’s launcher APK that the device effectively was running Android under the hood, instead of something bespoke to Rabbit; rendering the device as a glorified app within a bright orange case. Rabbit Inc. CEO Jesse Lyu released a statement saying that the R1 interface is “not an app” and that “rabbit OS and LAM run on the cloud with very bespoke AOSP.” However, as TechLinked points out, their OS is still essentially Android-based, just running on the cloud.

A question tech-tuber Dave2D asks in his coverage of the Rabbit R1 is “Why?” Why release products in a new tech category that feel unfinished and rushed? The answer is quite simple. He says, “…the moment Google and Apple put out their versions of AI-based assistants that are hard-wired and baked right into iOS and Android, it’s a completely different conversation for Rabbit and Humane. They no longer have these new and interesting things, they just have these derpy pieces of hardware that ostensibly shouldn’t even exist.” Dave clarifies that he’s not saying these types of products shouldn’t exist, simply that they are not ready for consumers in their current state. Smartphones have become very capable over the past decade, making them essential products that run much of our day-to-day lives. A.I–for better and for worse–is here to stay and is only getting (worryingly) more powerful with each passing day. Combine that power with the power iOS and Android, and you’ll have features far more capable than what either of these products are currently able to do.

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