Humane AI Pin Implosion? Poor Sales, Fire Risk, and Potential Acquisition

The Humane AI pin is hot—in all the wrong ways.

After heavy launch hype, Humane AI’s $700 AI Pin was met with a wave of harsh reviews. Amid poor sales, the device is now struggling with a faulty accessory. On Wednesday, Humane AI warned users to “immediately stop using and charging” the AI Pin’s optional charging case because of “a fire safety risk.”

“Upon receiving a single report of a charging issue while using a third-party USB-C cable and third-party power source, we identified a quality issue with the battery cell supplied by a third-party vendor used in your Charge Case Accessory,” the company said.

Humane noted that not all battery cells were affected but that they were telling all users to stop using the case “out of an abundance of caution.” The company also noted that the AI Pin itself—as well as add-on battery and charging pad—were unaffected.

Humane declined to provide additional comment to Decrypt.

What is the Humane AI Pin?

The world got an early preview of the Humane AI pin when it was worn by iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell on the runway during Fashion Week in Paris in September.

Designed to be pinned to a lapel or other article of clothing, the AI Pin includes a generative AI model that can answer questions, recall schedules, and search online with the push of a button.

“Anything you would search the web for or even use ChatGPT for, you can use on your pin,” Humane AI said during a demonstration in March.

From hype to fizzle

The Humane AI pin got lots of buzz, in part due to backers that included Qualcomm, OpenAI, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and TIDAL, and the fact that the Humane AI’s team included veterans from Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.

Reviewers delivered a harsh reality check, most notably top technology YouTuber Marques Brownlee. Complaints included its price tag, required monthly subscription, and poor usability—it was declared “too bare bones” and “clunky” by Wired Magazine. “It is an expensive product and expensive subscription for a device that does less,” Mac Rumors writer Steve Moser said on Twitter. “You can only have one expensive aspect for a successful gadget.”

The long-term prospects for the company dimmed even before the latest charging case debacle. Humane AI is in the process of looking for a buyer—courting legacy technology company Hewlett-Packard (HP)—according to a report by the New York Times.

According to the Times, the Humane AI pin only received 10,000 orders, compared to the 100,000 orders the company reportedly hoped to receive.

Humane AI began shopping itself around a week after reviews of the product began coming out, valuing itself at $1 billion after a new fund round, according to the Times report.

While the company may be in dire straits, Brownlee did acknowledge a good use case for the fashionable device—which was pitched as a way to leave your smartphone behind.

”You’ll have a new phone number, you’ll have to charge another device… but you’ll have less screen time,” he said.

A new niche market

Wearable technology is not new—smart glasses and watches are well-represented on the market. However, since the launch of OpenAI’s flagship product ChatGPT in November 2022, there has been a race to bring generative AI to the masses in form factors besides smartphones.

In September, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, announced the launch of its new augmented reality (AR) glasses that include a connection to the company’s new MetaAI chatbot.

While not a “wearable” the Rabbit R1 offered a personal AI assistant at a more reasonable $200 and does not require a subscription to use. The Rabbit R1 demo in January at CES was so impressive Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella compared it to the reveal of the iPhone.

“I thought the demo of the Rabbit OS and the device was fantastic,” Nadella told Bloomberg. “I think I must say, after Jobs and the launch of iPhone, probably one of the most impressive presentations I’ve seen.”

“Overall I’m impressed with this device and I think the R1 is really a standout product,” tech reviewer Justine “iJustine” Ezarik said in her review. “It combines solid hardware with smart adaptive software and it’s really user-focused designed.”

While the reviews for the Rabbit R1 were notably more kind than the reception, the Rabbit R1 still drew some criticism, from being dismissed as a dressed up Android app to being declared “barely reviewable” by Brownlee.

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