A Winning Pin

One of the biggest stories this week was the début of the Humane AI Pin, a small device that clips on to your jacket or sweater and allows you to do many of the things you can do with your phone while also tapping into the power of AI. 

In an introductory YouTube video for the device, an engineer speaks to Humane AI co-founder Imran Chaudhri in Spanish, and with only a few taps on his pin, Chaudri learns what the engineer is saying and has the pin reply on his behalf. (The AI knows to do this in Spanish without being told.)

One could also communicate with this engineer using a phone and the Google Translate app, but it would be much more awkward and time-consuming. 

In another example from the video, Chaudhri uses the pin’s machine vision capabilities to analyze some almonds he is about to eat and tell him how much protein he will be consuming. If you instruct it to do so, the pin can track what you eat and make sure you are keeping to your dietary plan. 

I was so sure that I would hate this thing. When I watched the first minute of the YouTube video, I kept thinking about what a failure Google’s smart eyeglasses were and how a pair of Google Glass  immediately signaled to the entire world that the person who was wearing them was a giant dork.

I also thought about how many lukewarm to terrible  experiences I’ve had with ChatGPT and Google Bard. The wow factor has definitely dissipated after receiving one too many illogical or inaccurate replies to my queries. Could this AI really be that much better? (I am referring here  in particular to a scenario in the video in which the Humane AI makes restaurant recommendations based on a bunch of notes from Chaudri that it’s read. In the real world, I can easily see an AI getting confused with contradictory or incomplete information.)

And finally, the $700 price point seemed steep given the fact that I have a  very expensive iPhone can do many of these same functions and is a much better camera and videocamera, to boot. (Small point, but I don’t think I would feel comfortable clipping a $700+ device to my sweater. I could easily see it flying off into the street and meeting an untimely end.) 

All of this said,  as I continued to watch the video, I admired the simplicity of the vision, the way AI streamlined so many functions that we currently assign to so many different applications. 

In the final analysis I think the Humane AI Pin will have a tough row to hoe. It’s expensive, somewhat redundant, and requires a change in behavior that may be difficult to surmount. 

Still, the ideas that it has kindled may inspire Apple and Google to speed up the embedding of AI functionality in the smartphone OS, which will be a good thing. 

And if Humane can also carve out a space between these giants, so much the better.