Surprising Nobody, the Humane AI Pin Sucks

It was only this past January wherein I wrote the following about the Humane AI Pin:

So the thing looks weird, is questionable with how it will work with all clothing, gives wrong answers, costs $700, has a $24 monthly subscription, and produced by an unproven company. You'll have to forgive me for sitting this one out.

This pin, which is a small rectangle-connected device you wear and ask it questions powered by AI, began shipping and is now in the hands of reviewers. And boy are they taking Humane to task.

David Pierce at The Verge: "The AI Pin is an interesting idea that is so thoroughly unfinished and so totally broken in so many unacceptable ways that I can’t think of anyone to whom I’d recommend spending the $699 for the device and the $24 monthly subscription."

Marques Brownlee (MKBHD): "The Humane AI pin is... bad. Almost no one should buy it. Yet."

Michael Fisher (MrMobile): "It just doesn’t do enough yet – and much of what it does, it doesn't do all that well."

In the words of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park when he's explaining to John Hammond how he's overconfident: There it is. Don't get me wrong. Humane's idea is novel and interesting. The concept of wearing something akin to a Star Trek ComBadge is absolutely future-tech that I'd love. But... the laws of physics, and the realistic state of where this technology is right now are all brick walls. And Humane is learning the hard way that even the best confidence is not enough to overcome it.

Every review (linked above and otherwise) boils down to three simple flaws:

  1. This thing is slow. Asking a question requires sending your voice to the cloud, processing, getting the response, sending it back. This 'round trip' is easily 15-30+ seconds to work given the current capabilities of cell service and cloud computing. There's a reason Amazon made all Echo / Alexa devices in-home only: wifi is vital.
  2. Battery life sucks. Two external batteries come in the package. It's not because Humane is generous. It's an admission that it can't last a day on a single charge. One extra battery? Sure, especially if it's marketed as "this thing gets 10 hours, but will do a full day when paired with the external battery."
  3. It's expensive and bricks if you stop paying. Shocker: $700 gets you only the pin and you need to pony-up $24 in perpetuity to keep the pin going. Stop your subscription and the pin stops working. That's it. It's completely cloud-dependent and you can't even tether it to your phone's connection to work. So... no.

There's tons more that this pin can't do (doesn't give answers, wrong answers, laser display can't be seen in sunlight, is uncomfortably warm, released features don't work, basic things like timers or alarms are missing) but those three above are the huge gaps.

When Apple or Samsung or Google show new products, even things we've never seen before, these companies make sure it does the core things to near-perfection. The original iPhone is the gold standard but you can look at the Pixel line of phones or Samsung's Note for guideposts on how to nail products. None of these did even half of what they do now because nailing the core experience was vital. As Apple once said in a promo video "for every yes there's a thousand no's".

Humane's hardware looks nice. The idea and core concept is appealing. But when you're peddling a $700 metal square with a required subscription that adds up to basically paying the equivalent re-purchasing the pin every 2.4 years, you better nail that core experience. From the numerous reviews I've read and watched, Humane is company aiming for the clouds but forgot to tie its shoes before stepping onto the field.

My prediction is they'll be bargain-bin devices, or the company is gone, in about a year.

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