Executive Briefing

The AI pin is probably doomed

But Humane’s new thing is a sign of things to come. Also: Instacart’s first earnings, when DTC marketplaces make sense, and the Amazon Fashion flop.

Humane AI pin
Humane’s AI pin / Courtesy Humane

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Humane, a consumer tech startup founded by former Apple designers that has gone to great lengths to hype itself up, unveiled its first product this week: An “AI pin” designed to replace many of the functions of your smartphone, but without a screen.

Because of who’s behind it — and some of its ideas, and its level of ambition — this one broke through and got a lot of attention, positive and negative. If you haven’t yet, take a peek at Humane’s 10-minute intro video. It’s worth a quick discussion.

The idea is that you’d wear a pin that’s magnetically attached to your shirt (or wherever) that has its own microphone, speaker, camera, sensors, wireless connection, etc., powered by an AI assistant that you can speak to. Think Her, but on your sweatshirt, not in your ear.

Instead of using your iPhone to send and receive messages, look things up, or take photos, you’d talk to the Humane pin. If you need a display to read something, it can project a simple one onto your hand with lasers.

I can’t yet tell you if it’s great or not, but it’s a pretty slick demo video — especially for a startup — and things like instant language translation always feel like the future.

And if this did become successful, it would be an extremely big deal. Disintermediating Apple and Google would mean massive power, affecting many elements of human attention, commerce, advertising, media, etc.

It’s just going to be really, really hard for Humane to succeed here.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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