I should be so excited about the Humane AI Pin. It’s sci-fi cool mobile technology wrapped in a sleek futuristic design with functionality that instantly makes me think Star Trek. But when I really think about what it does and how it works, all I see is how it sucks all the fun out of smartphones, digital communication, and life in general.
If it truly represents the future of mobile, you can keep it. I’ll stick with my iPhone, and here’s why.
It is really very serious
Humane Launches AI Pin (Full Presentation)
The future that Humane envisions is not fun at all. Its extremely serious. This was immediately apparent from the tone of the introductory video, where the AI needle was shown off in a sterile, almost lab-like environment by two people – Humane founders Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno – dressed in all black, in a way that was more appropriate to tell 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 really different from anything else we’re using now, it takes something extra so we engage with it right from the start. Say what you like about the silly spectacle of skydivers and BMX riders delivering glass to Sergey Brin on stage at Google I/O, but it was absolutely memorable and a lot of fun. It made me want to try it, seeing potential in the madness. Glass’s vision of the future made me say Wow.
If it truly represents the future of mobile, you can keep it.
Humane’s AI Pin introduction didn’t make me say wow at all. The future I envisioned with the AI needle was one of white walls, silver overalls, assigned roles in life, and taking everything very seriously. The AI would organize my life, curate my communications and exchange messages with the AI that belonged to my “trusted contacts”. I would not dare say wow, for fear of a police droid hauling 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 needle 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 response. 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
Ostensibly designed to reduce screen time and make us “more present” than we are when using a smartphone, AI Pin uses AI to minimize the amount of time we waste interacting with online and digital contacts. It summarizes this and dumbs it down and prevents you from having to do any annoying typing. It makes the assumption that any communication you have through your phone is either irrelevant or unimportant and that everything can be better handled by AI.
“My AI pin will create our next encounter with your AI pin” is how I view future interactions. I didn’t see any emotion in the AI needle at all, which is awkward because, personally, a lot of my online and digital communication is filled with emotion. While I appreciate that my job is about writing, so I’m attached to words, I don’t think that dictating messages is always as natural as typing them either.
Not only is it not as natural, it is also not always preferable. Still, voice is the only way you interact with the AI stylus. I’m not going to express how I feel verbally, send any heartfelt condolences to anyone, or tell anyone why I miss them to my AI needle in public, and I doubt I’m alone in this. Without a keyboard, but there is no other way to do it. But that’s OK because I got the impression that heightened emotional states have no place in Humane’s world.
Replace your phone, remove the fun
Any attempt to show your emotions will likely be stamped out by the AI needle, allowing you to enjoy the pure personal social experiences it has created for you. But what about when you want to relax or spend some time on the mass transit system that takes you back to your pod? No, sorry, the AI pen doesn’t have a screen, so you can’t read, watch videos or play games.
However, you can listen to music, as demonstrated by Humane. What music did it choose to display this feature? Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss, which many may know from the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s the movie about an AI-dominated future where nothing goes wrong, ever, so it was the perfect example to use.
Maybe I should take a trip or take my mind off it with a snack? I can show the AI needle what I have, and it will tell me its nutritional components and add them to my daily intake. Because that’s what food is, right? Nourishment and never something to enjoy. I saw absolutely no wonder at all in Humane’s presentation of the AI Pin. There are no opportunities for fun and no genuine personal interaction with the digital world. There is only streamlining, ready answers, summaries and cleanup.
How much does it cost?
I’m not entirely sure if it’s intended, but Humane’s AI Pin can’t replace your phone. It simply doesn’t have the ability to replicate all the different features and experiences that a smartphone offers. There’s no screen or keyboard, and there’s no creativity allowed with the camera, which only takes stills and videos from its own point of view. 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 $700 smartphone with a $24 per month subscription fee, either. And you need 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.
I’m not averse to paying a premium for new technology, but the AI stylus doesn’t look like it’s doing anything better than my smartphone. Instead, it apparently takes me to never have fun, be creative, or enjoy some downtime again. The AI needle is a seemingly soulless piece of technology, which you are expected to display proudly on your body, its Trust Light flashing for all to see. Its The Stepford Wives meets Minority reportboarded the Enterprise, but with only the ship’s computer for company.
I’d love to be proven wrong and find out that it’s just the early promotional messages that are a bit dry and not the product or the experience. But there’s nothing about the AI pin that gives me that essential inner buzz that encourages me to open my wallet and find out.
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