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Home / Features / Humane’s AI Pin won’t replace your smartphone – but I think phones should steal its best ideas

Humane’s AI Pin won’t replace your smartphone – but I think phones should steal its best ideas

The really smart bit of AI Pin isn’t a shiny gadget – it’s figuring out how to wrestle your life back from tech

AI Pin

It’s easy to be a cynic. And to be honest, during AI Pin’s reveal, my eyes rolled so hard I now have to tilt my head at a funny angle to see straight. The sterile video was (ironically) devoid of humanity and warmth. And yet another wearable seemed so unnecessary.

If you’ve not yet watched it or read an op-ed from someone doing the online equivalent of yelling in your face that AI PIN IS A JOKE AND PLEASE PAY ME FOR CLICKBAIT I NEED TO EAT, imagine a boxy Star Trek communicator. This and a battery pack attach magnetically to your clothes. 

When you prod the device, it springs to life. Then you can ask it things or snap photos on its ultra-wide camera. And none of this uses apps. Instead, AI Pin is (as the name suggests) based entirely around AI experiences. You don’t install anything. Nor do you type anything. You just talk.

The personal touch

He won’t be so happy when AI hallucinates and directs him into a ravine.

At this point, you might rightly note your phone already does that kind of thing. You might add ChatGPT and its ilk ‘hallucinate’ so often you’d be terrified of asking AI Pin anything important, lest you query whether something’s safe to eat, and then get a surprise when you’re whisked to hospital while an angry puffer fish inflates in your throat. 

But dig into the details and the abstract of what AI Pin is trying to achieve makes sense. This is another crack at making technology smaller and more personal, to the point it’s almost invisible and yet smarter. It understands context, drawing from information you’ve previously provided it with. The system can summarise your inbox and auto-translate to and from languages it hears. 

Again, so far so phone – if you’ve the right apps and services. But AI Pin doesn’t require you to do anything for most tasks. It picks the right AI in the moment. And when you do need a modicum of control or to read something, it’ll beam a transient, gestural interface to your palm.

All these things remove barriers between you and being present – with people and the world around you. And, let’s face it, technology helping you stay in the moment hasn’t been a roaring success to date, judging by how many people you see glued to screens at any given moment.

In your head

I’m outside message on AI Pin
Bit ominous. I get a message like that without a name attached and I’m staying inside, thanks.

Phones are already moving in this direction. But there’s a disconnect. For every smart assistant and focus system, there’s a shiny thing designed to add to – rather than reduce – your screen time. But that’s not to say AI Pin is the right solution. People might be becoming more comfortable talking to machines, but I’d question how far we can remove the interface and yet retain an experience that’s widely – rather than specifically – useful.

A camera that shoots without me knowing for sure what I’ll get doesn’t keep me in the moment. It drives anxiety. An inbox overview is great, but without seeing information, I have to keep it all in my head. Then there’s accessing what AI Pin captures, which for now still needs a screen.

Perhaps I lack imagination. But AI Pin today feels like yet another niche accessory – albeit a wallet-thumping one at $699 for the hardware plus $24 per month for access. That might be fine if it was the only device you need – injected into smart glasses (or your eye!) – but it isn’t.

I worry AI Pin is a feature wrapped around an ideology, masquerading as a product. Well-intentioned and with good ideas, but set to be another footnote in the relentless pursuit of what’s next. And even the ideology might be a hindrance. Since AI Pin isn’t ‘always on’, that blocks a real-life Black Mirror episode that sucks your existence into the cloud for later playback. But it also means you won’t be able to ask where you left your phone.

Not that AI Pin would want you to find it anyway.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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