Humane vs Apple: Can wearable AI assistant designed by ex-Apple employees take on iPhones?


What happens when former staff of one of the biggest tech houses collaborate? More innovations, perhaps bigger and better than the ones introduced by their former employee. Humane, founded by Apple veterans Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, has been operating in stealth mode for a long time.

The company made headlines this week after Chaudhri demonstrated its projector-based wearable AI assistant for the first time during a TED Talk. Reportedly, the tiny unit can come in handy as an AI-backed personal assistant, and potentially replace all smartphones in the near future.

Humane, founded by Apple’s former senior designer and a senior software engineer, had raised over $100 million in 2021. In March this year, the company managed to raise $250 million, becoming the only AI start-up to do so without any products announced.

Although there has been considerable interest in the start-up, not much has been known about their brand, products or services. However, with the new video leak of their AI wearable assistant, Humane seems to be back in the news and right at the centre of the ever-evolving AI space.

So, what is Humane’s AI powered wearable projector?

Humane’s AI projector brings the futuristic technology straight out of a Hollywood sci-fi film. The thought of replacing one’s smartphone with a little voice-activated device that projects everything from calls to messages on one’s hand may not have ever occurred to anyone. The new wearable AI assistant from Humane is, precisely, a device that projects calls and other smartphone functions right on to your palms.

“If we get this right, AI will unlock a world of possibility. Today, I want to share with you what we think is a solution to that end. And it’s the first time we’re doing so openly. It’s a new kind of wearable device, that and platform that’s built entirely from the ground up for artificial intelligence. And it’s completely standalone. You don’t need a smartphone or any other device to pair with it,” Chaudhri said during the Ted Talk.

What can the wearable AI assistant do?

Humane’s wearable AI is a little device that can take phone calls, translate languages using AI, throw up emails and messages, and even tell you what food to have based on your dietary restrictions. During the demo by Chaudhri, the device instantly translated his voice into French, offered him an update about his emails and meetings, and informed him on the foods to avoid. The most unique feature of the device, according to Chaudhri, is that it does not even need a device to be paired with.

Chaudhri said that the device interacts with the world the way humans interact with the world. He said that the device hears what we hear and sees what we see. The former Apple designer also stated that while privacy and safety is a priority, the device fades in the background of the user’s life.

The device from Humane does not need a touch screen like a smartphone, one simply needs to talk to it. Tap on it, ask it to give an update on the emails, messages, and calendar events. Based on the demo, it seems the device can scan objects and also give answers that are similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This was demonstrated by Chaudhri when the device gave him a breakdown of the ingredients of a snack.

The latest demo comes as a breather to many who have been trying to understand Humane’s line of products. However, how this latest wearable AI technology works will only be known when it’s released. As of now, there is no information on when the device will be made public.

The genesis of Humane

Although Humane has not released any of its products, it has been around since 2017. The company has been grabbing attention since its inception owing to its two co-founders, husband and wife, Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno.

Bongiorno, who is the CEO of Humane, was earlier a software engineering director at Apple. Meanwhile, Chaudhri, who is the chairman and president of Humane, was earlier Apple’s director of design. Chaudhri has been instrumental in some of the iconic products such as the iPhone, Mac and iPad.

The couple have more than a dozen patents to their credit. One of the patents is the “wearable multimedia device and cloud computing platform with laser projection system”. Reportedly, the couple in an interview to a media outlet suggested that ‘reimagining the role of technology in the next wave of innovation’ was something that motivated them to establish Humane.

“Together, Imran and Bethany envision a future that is even more intelligent and even more personal, and have committed Humane to building not for the world as it exists today but as it could be tomorrow. Rethinking, reconsidering, and remembering honest human connection in the context of computing, they seek to reshape the role of technology in our lives,” reads the Our Story section of the company’s official website.

Can Humane take on Apple?

Much of the chatter around Humane stems from the fact that it is founded by two people who were key to Apple products at one point of time. The company managed to raise nearly $250 million funding without any product or service announced, and this perhaps have led to speculations on how the company has been operating clandestinely to take on Apple.

With the latest video, the Internet is abuzz with reactions including ‘Humane has finally come up with an iPhone killer’. However, as of now, nothing much is known, and all of it merely seems like tall claims.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

First published on: 26-04-2023 at 19:34 IST

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