May 21, 2024
Humane’s ‘AI Pin’ debuts on the Paris runway

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Humane, a stealthy software and hardware company, is clearly milking the media hype cycle for all it’s worth. The company’s origin dates all the way back to 2017, when it was founded by former Apple employees, Bethany Bongiorno, Imran Chaudhri. In the intervening half-decade, the firm has been largely shrouded in mystery, as it’s put together the pieces of a mystery wearable, which it promises will leverage AI in unique ways.

The company’s been buzzy since it first engaged with the media – well before it offered the slightest bit of insight into what it’s been working on. In spite — or perhaps because — of such mysteries, Humane is now an extremely well-funded early stage startup.

At the tail end of 2020, it raised a $30 million Series A at a $150 million valuation. The $100 million B round arrived the following September, including Tiger Global Management, SoftBank Group, BOND, Forerunner Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures. It all seemed like a strong vote of confidence for the still stealthy firm. This March, it went ahead and raised another $100 million.

Sam Altman is also a large backer in the firm. No surprise then, that OpenAI is serving as a key collaborator on the artificial intelligence side of the equation.

In June, Humane revealed that its inaugural product would be an “AI Pin.”

“The [AI Pin is a] connected and intelligent clothing-based wearable device uses a range of sensors that enable contextual and ambient compute interactions,” the company noted at the time. “The Ai Pin is a type of standalone device with a software platform that harnesses the power of Ai to enable innovative personal computing experiences.”

Today it confirmed that the device will get a proper unveiling at a November 9 event. In the meantime, however, it’s doing the rounds at some Parisian fashion shows. The device apparently made a cameo on the lapel of supermodel Naomi Campbell during Coperni’s  2024 Spring Summer show at Paris Fashion Week, making her the “first person outside of the company to wear the device in public.”

Image Credits: Luca Tombolini for Coperni

“We have been admirers of Arnaud and Sébastien at Coperni for some time and our shared passion for the union of design, creativity and technology is at the heart of this collaboration,” Humane founders Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno said in a release. “Our relationship with technology is changing profoundly, becoming even more personal as our devices morph into extensions of our bodies, minds and hearts.”

They went on to refer to the system as “a new paradigm of ambient, AI-driven computing.” Humane further describes the device thusly,

The Humane Ai Pin is the screenless, standalone device and software platform built from the ground up for AI. The intelligent clothing-based wearable uses a range of sensors that enable natural and intuitive compute interactions and is designed to weave seamlessly into users’ day-to-day lives. The device is privacy-first, with aspects such as no wake word and therefore no ‘always on’ listening, reflecting Humane’s vision of building products which place trust at the center.

If that sounds like a bunch of buzz words strung together, you’re not wrong. Until we actually see the thing functioning in-person, it’s impossible to untangle the final product from the self-generated hype. From what we can make out from the images, it’s definitely a screenless device, though the large front may have some functionality. Above that are what appear to be front-facing sensors, possibly coupled with additional sensors on the top, directed at the wearer’s face.

Humane is really pushing the “standalone device” narrative, meaning some of the appeal here could be the ability to leave your smartphone at home — similar to what companies have pushed with LTE-enable smartwatches.

Looks like we’ll get a better answer in a couple of months.

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