Smartphones have dramatically altered the way we interact with the digital world (and each other) over the past two decades. And while we’ve seen the rise of wearable devices like smartwatches that let you do more without looking at your phone, they’re still basically smartphone companions with wearable displays.

A startup called Humane is working on something different: a wearable AI assistant that doesn’t need a display… or a phone. It’s a standalone device that responds to voice commands and gesture support with voice responses. And it also has a built-in projector that can display some information on your hand or another surface when reading is easier than viewing.

Zarif Ali / Inverse

Humane hasn’t provided many technical details about how the device works yet. The company hasn’t even told us its name. But there are a few reasons to take Humane seriously.

First, the company was founded by a couple of former Apple employees from that company’s design and engineering team. Second, the company has already raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors. And third, Humane is already showing off an early prototype.

Humane co-founder Imran Chaudhri showed off a demo during a TED talk on Thursday, giving us an idea of what the device looks like and at least some of what it can do.

Chaudri wore the gadget so that the top was sticking out of a breast pocket in his jacket, positioned sort of in the spot where you’d position a Star Trek com badge. Tap it like a com badge and you can speak to the device, which can do things like:

  • Provide a summary of email and text messages, calendar invites, and other personal information
  • Translate your speech to another language in real-time using an AI-generated voice
  • Answer a variety of questions (sort of like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant)
  • Use a tiny projector to display caller ID or other information on your hand
Zarif Ali / Inverse

There also appears to be some sort of integrated camera, because in one demo Chaudhri holds a candy bar in front of the device and asks the gadget “can I eat this,” at which point the voice assistant responds that it “contains cocoa butter. Given your intolerance, you may want to avoid it.”

Like I said, at this point it’s unclear what technologies are powering the Humane device. But Chaudhri describes it as “completely standalone,” saying that it doesn’t need to be paired with a smartphone.

That said, it almost certainly does need to connected to the internet to access your contacts, calendar, and, most likely, remote data centers that can handle some of the AI processing so that it doesn’t all have to be done locally on a device that’s small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.

But it’s an interesting vision of a new kind of device that could theoretically free users from screens, while still offering an on-the-go digital assistant… assuming it’s priced competitively, offers decent battery life and connectivity, and performs enough of the real-world functions that we’ve come to expect from mobile devices.

via InverseAxios, and TechCrunch

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  1. Geez, more appropriation of Star Trek ideas by Steve Jobs and co to take as their own “innovations”. They have now copied the Tricorder (iPhone), the LCARS touch interface (iOS), the PADD (iPad), computer female voice for your personal assistant (Siri), Geordi’s VISOR (Reality headset) and more. Now they have copied the iconic Federation comm badge. It is so blatant at this point, there should be some direct acknowledgement on all Apple products of the awesomeness of Roddenberry who has been behind Apple products since the 1960’s.

    Note: The above rant is a joke.

    Note to note: Maybe not.

  2. I’ve been playing around a lot with different AI models the last three months. Free and some not, demos, etc. While they’ve been fun to varying degrees, I’m surprised to say I’ve actually gotten kind of bored of it.

    I don’t understand all the hype, or all the “omg the sky’s falling, the world’s gonna end!!!” crap with regards to AI. No, it’s not going to end. Some will use it as a tool, some for play, others will move on (I’m probably in the latter camp).

    A.I. has definitely made a splash into human awareness of late, but I think, most people will probably not care and life will get on as usual after the initial high wears off.

    But it’s definitely been a treat to see the various ingenious ways the open source community has come up with in running LLM’s on cpu for example.

    As with this device, it’s different, but I think it’s just a novelty and not really practical. I saw a demo of smart glasses by some company which basically does the same thing. A fun toy maybe, but not really practical IMHO.

      1. There’s also an element of panic over AI saying things that are not socially acceptable/in accordance with TV news, or displacing workers until we’ve literally got more people than we know what to do with and evaluating yourself and others becomes painful and uncertain, or replacing decision-makers until what happens to us is outside of any human being’s control.
        Or they could just come up with lots more new scams that are harder not to fall for, like using your daughter’s voice to say she’s been kidnapped when she hasn’t, or arguing with you until you convince yourself that dying is the only way to save the world. Both of these have happened already. Social media sites or hackers could also use it to put words in your mouth and the mouths of people you know and get you into big protracted arguments that ruin your reputation.
        How much the proliferation of neural network applications will do any of these things, I just don’t know, although I’d definitely bet on scams getting far worse (for social media users) and social media becoming so unpleasant and fake that realistically people should actually start using email again but they won’t because, email is too manually controlled for most people, encryption requires other people to use it before it works, and email doesn’t give you any “likes”.

  3. Large language models and diffusion models have made stuff like this surprisingly easy to duct tape together if you’ve got enough VRAM, or just buy processing time from “””””Open”””””ai. Well, their services might be convincing enough for the investors, but they’ll probably be more practical to use if you can just use a smartwatch…or a phone.
    I’ve found that when people mention investors dumping money into bizarre projects like this, suppositions are that either the investors are clueless crusty old bats, or experienced Machiavellian schemers who understand the long game way better than anyone else, with zero middle ground being considered.
    Nevertheless…the fact that they think enough people are going to be dependent on AI, with an expected trust level between “dubious” and “you waive all rights even if this thing tells you to eat something that kills you”, for advice, is a real testament to how low-trust our society is and how hard it is to find someone to talk to.