In a former horse stable in the San Francisco neighborhood of SoMa, a wave of gentle chirps emerged from small, blinking devices pinned to the chests of employees at a start-up called Humane. The company was preparing to reveal its gadget, the Ai Pin to the public. It was the culmination of five years, $240 million in funding, 25 patents, a steady drumbeat of hype, and partnerships with top tech companies such as OpenAI, Microsoft, and Salesforce.
The founders, Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, envision a future with less dependency on smartphone screens. Their solution is the Ai Pin, heralded as the first artificially intelligent device. It responds to voice commands, tapping, or projecting a laser display onto the palm of a hand to send messages, play music, snap photos, make calls, or translate conversations in real-time.
This technology is a step forward from Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, as it can follow a conversation, summarize messages, and edit a single word in a dictated message. However, its success is uncertain as it enters a market with many failed wearable products. Nevertheless, Humane plans to ship around 100,000 pins in the first year, each selling for $699 with a $24 monthly subscription.
The founders, Mr. Chaudhri and Ms. Bongiorno, have a marriage of contrasts, and met while working at Apple in 2008. They developed the Ai Pin and presented it to Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, who was impressed by its potential. The company aims to replicate the usefulness of the iPhone without the addictive elements associated with it and experimented in secrecy to create a virtual assistant powered by Artificial Intelligence. The Ai Pin also comes with a trust light that blinks when the device is recording, promoting transparency and trust.
Humane’s futuristic technology enters the market at a time when excitement for A.I. is high, but skepticism and regulatory concerns are prevalent. Investors have valued the company at $850 million, even before the product is released. Nevertheless, its success is uncertain as it steps into the competitive world of technology.