David Pierce Reviews Humane’s AI Pin: ‘Nope. Nuh-Uh. No Way.’

David Pierce, mincing no words at The Verge:

That raises the second question: should you buy this thing? That one’s easy. Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. 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. [...]

As the overall state of AI improves, the AI Pin will probably get better, and I’m bullish on AI’s long-term ability to do a lot of fiddly things on our behalf. But there are too many basic things it can’t do, too many things it doesn’t do well enough, and too many things it does well but only sometimes that I’m hard-pressed to name a single thing it’s genuinely good at. None of this — not the hardware, not the software, not even GPT-4 — is ready yet.

Ever since Humane de-stealthed and revealed the AI Pin last July, the big question (for me at least) has been whether it’d actually be useful to own a gadget that does what the AI Pin is supposed to do. It’s seemed to me all along that almost everything the AI Pin does would be just as well, if not better, done by a phone with an LLM-powered voice assistant. But Humane has far bigger problems, because the AI Pin clearly doesn’t even do what it’s supposed to. Pierce:

I’d estimate that half the time I tried to call someone, it simply didn’t call. Half the time someone called me, the AI Pin would kick it straight to voicemail without even ringing. After many days of testing, the one and only thing I can truly rely on the AI Pin to do is tell me the time.

The more I tested the AI Pin, the more it felt like the device was trying to do an awful lot and the hardware simply couldn’t keep up. For one, it’s pretty much constantly warm. In my testing, it never got truly painfully hot, but after even a few minutes of using it, I could feel the battery like a hand warmer against my skin. Bongiorno says the warmth can come from overuse or when you have a bad signal and that the device is aggressive about shutting down when it gets too hot. I’ve noticed: I use the AI Pin for more than a couple of minutes, and I get notified that it has overheated and needs to cool down. This happened a lot in my testing (including on a spring weekend in DC and in 40-degree New York City, where it was the only warm thing in sight).

The battery life is similarly rough.

Pierce’s review is so brutal it’s uncomfortable at times. I don’t know where Humane goes from here but this launch might be impossible to recover from reputationally. It seems borderline criminal that they shipped it in this state. Here’s one more tidbit:

Me: “Play ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ by Beyoncé.”

The AI Pin: “Songs not found for request: Play Texas Hold ’Em by Beyonc\u00e9. Try again using your actions find a relevant track, album, artist, or playlist; Create a new PlayMusic action with at least one of the slots filled in. If you find a relevant track or album play it, avoid asking for clarification or what they want to hear.”

That’s a real exchange I had, multiple times, over multiple days with the AI Pin.

I thought perhaps the “\u00e9” thing was a CMS glitch, but no — watch Pierce’s corresponding video review and you’ll hear the AI Pin pronounce “Beyoncé” as “beeyonk-backslash-you-zero-zero-ee-nine”.

(Yet, somehow, the AI Pin garnered a 4/10 on The Verge’s review scale. How bad, how broken, would a product experience have to be to get a lower score? Would the reviewer need to be electrocuted by the device to rate it lower? “3/10, sent me to the ER with a nasty burn”? “1/10, it killed my spouse when she tried it”?)

Thursday, 11 April 2024