Humane AI Pin review roundup: an undercooked flop that’s way ahead of its time

<div>Humane AI Pin review roundup: an undercooked flop that’s way ahead of its time</div>
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The Humane AI Pin is a fascinating little device for gadget fans. If you missed its reveal in November 2023, it’s a tiny wearable computer with a built-in AI assistant, camera, and a little projector that blasts its UI onto your hand. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty terrible, according to the internet’s first reviews, which have landed in the past few days.

It’s rare for tech reviews, from both traditional media and YouTubers, to be so unanimous in their criticism of a much-hyped product. “The worst product I’ve ever reviewed… for now” concluded Marques Brownlee. Ouch. Meanwhile, Engadget branded it “the solution to none of technology’s problems”, while The Verge simply said that the AI Pin was “not even close”.

Naturally, these scathing verdicts create some added fascination about a $699 device that also requires a $ 24-a-month subscription. Yet few of the reviews think the AI Pin is completely without merit. Many praise its hardware design, which is solid aluminum and clips to your chest thanks to a magnetic ‘battery booster’ that goes inside your clothing. On the few occasions that it did work seamlessly, it also gave reviewers a little glimpse of a refreshingly screen-less future.

A person wearing the Humane AI Pin on a camouflaged jacket

(Image credit: Humane)

But beyond the specific features – many of which don’t seem to work reliably enough yet – the most interesting thing about these Humane AI Pin reviews is their broad conclusions about AI gadgets. In short, our phones aren’t going anywhere for a long time, and, as Bloomberg’s review concluded, “the AI device revolution isn’t going to kill the smartphone”. We haven’t yet reviewed the Rabbit R1, but that will probably hold true for a while yet.  

This doesn’t mean that the Humane AI Pin isn’t a fascinating (if deeply flawed device) today. Here are all of the internet’s thoughts on the boldest tech launch since the Apple Vision Pro

Humane AI Pin: the key reviews

Marques Brownlee: “The worst product I’ve ever reviewed…for now”

Despite the scathing headline, Marques Brownlee’s report on his time with the AI Pin is typically fair and even-handed. Unfortunately, he simply couldn’t find many positives, aside from the design. “The build of this thing is actually impressive”, he says of the solid, aluminum gadget. Unfortunately, it’s also “bad at almost everything it does”.

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That list includes answering your voice queries, where it’s either painfully slow (given most requests go to the cloud) or “just wrong all the time”. The battery life was also strangely inconsistent, and the device was worryingly warm a lot of time. But the fundamental issue, a theme across most of the reviews, is that everything the AI Pin does, a “modern smartphone does better and faster”. Without connecting to your smartphone or offering any apps, the AI Pin is strangely adrift.

The Good

  • Solid build quality
  • Translation feature has promise
  • Impressive engineering

The Bad

  • Too slow at giving answers
  • Poor, inconsistent battery life
  • Overheating issues
  • Wrong all the time
  • No apps

Mrwhosetheboss: “It’s not good”

Tech YouTuber Arun Maini, AKA Mrwhosetheboss, was clearly conflicted in his review between the “small twinges of something magical” he could see in the Humane AI Pin and the unworkable reality of using it. “As of right now, the Human Pin is an incredibly poor proposition” he concluded.

As other reviews noted, it all goes downhill after you see the hardware. The price (which works out at $1,700 over two years, when you factor in the subscription, accessories, and taxes), slow responses to voice requests, lack of integration with existing phone apps, and impractical projector interface were all black marks. 

As Maini notes, a more sensible setup would surely be for the AI Pin to connect to your phone – like the best smartwatches – rather than act as a standalone device. All of this led him to conclude that he can’t see “a single angle from which it makes sense”.

The Good

  • Construction is top-notch
  • No wake words needed
  • Vision feature is satisfying

The Bad

  • Too expensive
  • Requests take too long
  • Doesn’t talk to existing apps
  • Projector not bright enough

CNET: “Futuristic but frustrating”

CNET’s hands-on review of the AI Pin contains a nice nod to the Star Trek Communicator badge that the pin is seemingly inspired by, but that’s one of the few moments of levity in a review that cautions, you “definitely not” consider buying it in its current form.

The video is more of a whistlestop tour of the AI Pin’s features – including the built-in camera for taking photos and 15-second videos – than a real deep-dive into living with it. But there are lots of useful real-world examples of using the wearable, including its promising translation feature and uncut takes of how long it often takes to respond.

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There are also some familiar conclusions; overheating, the laser display not being bright enough in daylight, underwhelming AI features, and the hand-tracking interface being frustrating and worse than on a VR headset. In short, it’s frustrating and CNET said there are times when the AI Pin has driven it crazy.

The Good

  • Sleek design
  • Well-conceived accessories
  • Decent battery life

The Bad

  • Overheating issues
  • Too frustrating for everyday use
  • Can’t connect to your phone
  • AI is unreliable 

The Verge: “Not even close”

Frequent bouts of hysterical laughter aren’t usually a good sign for a tech review –and sure enough, The Verge found that the AI Pin’s promise is completely undermined by its unreliability and its “single biggest problem – it is so, so slow”.

Cue a 13-second wait for it to mis-identify the Brooklyn Bridge and other unintentionally hilarious gaffes. The Verge actually still came away “sort of impressed” by the AI Pin’s technology, including the fact that it doesn’t need a wake word and promises a world where you can sometimes leave your phone at home.

It also concluded that the Pin “might still be the future, or something like it”, with its camera-based descriptions of real-world objects being “easily the most futuristic thing” about the device. But it’s also a “$700 gamble” and the damning conclusion is that a cell-connected Apple Watch is a much more capable and functional device, while being a lot cheaper.

The Good

  • Sturdy and nicely made
  • No wake word needed

The Bad

  • Many features not yet available
  • Very slow at responding
  • Doesn’t always work

Bloomberg: “The design and interface are fatally flawed”

The Humane AI Pin on a shirt

(Image credit: Humane)

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is an Apple reporter who notes that Humane’s co-founders are former Apple staffers who worked on the iPhone and iPad, which gave them a leg-up when it came to investment. But despite its promising backstory, he concludes that the AI Pin’s “fundamental design and interface are fatally flawed”.

Gurman’s conclusion is that the bugs and slow response times aren’t the AI Pin’s main problem. Instead, the voice control and laser projection system make it “a nonstarter for most people”. He notes that smart speaker and voice assistant hype has died down because they’re not a “practical user interface”.

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So while Gurman concludes, like most of the early reviews, that Humane deserves credit for creating something new and creating a system that “aggregate data from several AI engines”, the concept is ultimately doomed to failure and is “never going to work”.

What next for the Humane AI Pin?

The Humane AI Pin on an orange background

(Image credit: Humane)

Understandably, Humane has defended its new gadget from the wave of scathing reviews. Ken Kocienda, the company’s Head of Product Engineering and the inventor of the iPhone’s autocorrect, posted a lengthy statement on X (formerly Twitter) about why he’s a “happy AI Pin user” and why his “intuition tells me that we are on track”.

Kocienda admits that the AI Pin can be “frustrating sometimes”, but apparently no more than a laptop or smartphone. That isn’t the conclusion from the internet’s first reviews from multiple sources, but the Humane designer also blames the social media landscape for encouraging “hot takes” and encouraging people to “jump on the skepticism bandwagon”.

So what next for the AI Pin? Humane does have a roadmap for new features, with timers, gesture unlock, photo sharing via SMS, and more coming in software version 1.2, which is scheduled for “Summer”. Other features like number sharing, visual shopping, and an SDK for apps are also in the pipeline, but don’t yet have a date.

As it stands, the current consensus for the Humane AI Pin is that it’s simply too ambitious for its form factor and current technology – including the problem that AI tends to ‘hallucinate’ or confidently give incorrect answers. For now, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses and Rabbit R1 look like more promising examples of AI gadgets, but we’ll be keeping an eye on AI Pin to see if it can overcome its inauspicious start. 

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