Ultraman AI device flops; ChatGPT iPhone launch fails!

Ultraman AI Device Flops at ChatGPT iPhone Launch

Xinzhigen Report

Editor: Aeneas So Tired

[Xinzhigen Synopsis] The much-anticipated first AI hardware, Ai Pin, intended to replace smartphones, has made its debut amidst great fanfare! However, after users tried it out, they overwhelmingly gave negative reviews: too complex to operate, overheating and shutting down after 3 minutes, too slow, unresponsive, impossible to see outdoors… It seems like smartphones are not going anywhere just yet.

ChatGPT’s version of the iPhone, which garnered widespread attention, has finally been revealed!

Recently, discussions about Ai Pin have been dominating the headlines.

Half a year ago, this product came with an impressive array of credentials—being the world’s first AI hardware product, backed by investments from Sam Altman, technical support from OpenAI, a collaboration of a former Apple couple, a team of hundreds with Apple DNA, and being named “Invention of 2023” by Time magazine even before its official release…

Each of these accolades alone is impressive enough. Are our smartphones really on the verge of being replaced? Has a scenario straight out of a science fiction movie become a reality several decades ahead of its time?

Who could have predicted that after such a dreamy start, foreign media outlets who waited six months to finally try out the product would almost unanimously conclude—

It’s underwhelming, barely deserving 4 out of 10!

The initial issues it exposed include, but are not limited to: overheating and shutting down after 3 minutes, overly complicated user interface, slow speed, low success rate, poor screen visibility outdoors…

Paying $699 for the hardware and a $24 monthly subscription fee, just to get this?

Looking at the evaluation headlines from foreign media, they are all along these lines:

“The first-ever heavily promoted AI hardware turns out to be a complete failure”

“It seems like the smart brooch still can’t replace our smartphones”

“Humane AI Pin Review: Still a Long Way to Go”

“This wearable computer, priced at $699 with a $24 monthly fee, supposed to free you from the shackles of smartphones. The only issue is: it doesn’t work.”

Of course, there are some slightly more forgiving comments (limited to their titles only), such as The New York Times’ piece titled “Ai Pin Aims to Liberate You from Your Phone”.

Product Engineer Claps Back at Negative Reviews: Ai Pin Will Change History

Faced with a barrage of mockery and negative reviews from the media, Humane’s lead product engineer, Ken Kocienda, posted a lengthy response on X.

The essence of this lengthy response is as follows—

I’ve seen all the feedback on Ai Pin.

Throughout my career, I’ve developed several 1.0 products, such as the first-generation iPhone. So, I’ve been through this kind of situation before.

I’m proud of Ai Pin; I really like this little gadget. Creating something new is challenging, and with the top-notch Humane team, we’ve turned our dream into reality.

Of course, you’re not obligated to care about our sense of pride. Ultimately, a tech product must benefit those who purchase it; the time and monetary returns must outweigh the product cost, and that’s our goal.

In my view, the evolution of computers is far from over. The potential of computers to assist humanity in daily life has not been fully realized.

LLM is an advancement on par with CPUs. Decades ago, the development of the first CPU inspired the creation of operating systems and modeling, giving birth to personal computers. Now, we are in a similar moment, but AI’s evolution is far surpassing that of PCs from decades ago.

It is from this historical perspective that we’ve built Ai Pin.

I feel that social media today particularly encourages exaggerated and harsh criticism, the spicier and sharper, the better.
People poke holes and criticize every little detail, but no one can deny that AI will change everything.

Does Ai Pin sometimes feel frustrating? Yes. Are our laptops and smartphones sometimes frustrating? Yes, there’s nothing perfect in the world. Our new AI operating system is a landscape worth exploring, but it’s not magic.

I believe in my intuition. A few years ago, I developed the auto-correct touchscreen keyboard for the first iPhone, and many people were skeptical about the concept at that time. As time passed, most humans on Earth embraced this usage.

Are you interested in how AI changes the way we interact with information? Are you interested in changing some of your tech habits to find better practices? Do you like cool new gadgets? If so, you should definitely try Ai Pin.

Ultraman AI Device

Humane’s co-founders Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno also explained, “Ai Pin and its AI operating system, Cosmos, are the starting point of the ambient computing story.”

Today is not the beginning of the story but the first page of the prologue.

We have outlined a grand blueprint, including software optimizations, new features, expanded partnerships, and our software development kit. All of these will make Ai Pin smarter and more powerful over time.

Our vision is that Cosmos will eventually integrate into various devices and forms, opening up new ways of interacting with all devices.

Most of the comments from netizens encourage Humane.

“It doesn’t matter what others think. As long as you keep innovating and solving problems for humanity, you’ll reach beautiful places. Admire you for inventing something like this!”

Ultraman AI Device

Some people argued that everyone’s opinions still matter since you’re reaching into their wallets after all.

Ultraman AI Device

“Why does Ai Pin represent a singularity moment that fundamentally changes the human condition?”

Others suggested skipping this step altogether and just using ChatGPT for free on the phone. A meaningless product will remain meaningless no matter what.

Let me give you a brief introduction:

This $699 AI hardware comes with a virtual assistant that can fetch data from OpenAI, Google, Microsoft, and others to answer questions and perform tasks.

Ultraman AI Device

In terms of appearance, Ai Pin is designed like a lapel pin and is secured to clothing with magnets.

It’s much smaller than you’d imagine: about the size of four coins stacked in a square, or half a pack of gum.

It’s also lightweight, weighing about 55 grams, equivalent to two AA batteries or a car key fob.

But it’s very durable, designed to withstand drops and even occasional washing machine cycles.

However, since it doesn’t come with a screen, users need to first set up an account and other configurations by accessing Humane’s website.

Ultraman AI Device

When in use, you simply extend your palm, and Ai Pin will project a green laser onto it.

Whether unlocking devices, connecting to Wi-Fi, or displaying text transcriptions of virtual assistant answers, all interactions can be done through this laser.

Among them, pulling your hand outward increases the number, pulling inward decreases it, and selecting each number is done by pinching with two fingers of the same hand.

Ultraman AI Device

In addition to using the laser, you can also control it through light taps and voice commands.

For example, pressing and holding a finger on Ai Pin will summon the assistant and have it add tasks to the to-do list.

Sounds good, but Gear Patrol’s reporter bluntly stated that this “trash” smart lapel pin won’t replace our phones.

Is it arrogance or pressure from investors?

This $699 product was originally hoped to be the future replacement for smartphones.
### The Rise and Fall of Ai Pin: A Cautionary Tale of AI Hardware

This owes much to Imran Chaudhri, the founder of Humane, and his TED talk a year ago, titled “The Vanishing Computer – A New World Where AI Can Go Anywhere.”

Back then, Imran Chaudhri’s captivating speech ignited immense enthusiasm for a brand-new consumer AI hardware.

Everyone was discussing how this device might just break our addiction to smartphones. By shifting our interaction with technology away from screens, we could once again freely enjoy the world around us.

Ultraman AI Device Flops

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Venture capitalists and tech evangelists went wild too! The whole promotion reeked of a fervor akin to cocaine —

“They use AI!” “A whole new hardware form factor!” “Founders and team are ex-Apple employees!” The recipe for a hit was instantly complete.

However, within a few months, the hype around this product started to fizzle out completely.

Ultraman AI Device Flops

Last November, the unveiling of Ai Pin was quietly done with just a video release; notable tech media outlets like The Verge were not even invited.

Ultraman AI Device Flops

To make matters worse, Pin made a glaringly typical AI mistake during the demonstration — utter nonsense presented solemnly.

Ultraman AI Device Flops

On April 8, 2024, the optimal location to watch the total eclipse was supposed to be North America, but Pin mistakenly said Australia.

Moreover, the attitude of investor Sam Altman is quite intriguing.

He, along with legendary hardware designer Jony Ive, raised $1 billion to build AI-driven personal devices, which also made headlines for a while.

It seems Altman didn’t want to put all eggs in one basket.

But after Ai Pin’s official release, Gear Patrol “expressed disappointment in the lack of innovation in mobile computing.”

Technology can indeed change lives, but only if it readily solves the majority’s problems.

However, with Pin, its heating issues are hard to ignore, and navigating through its various menus with gestures is overly complex, even for tech enthusiasts.

In essence, Humane seemed to have never considered listening to external feedback nor collecting test data from third-party testers.

Of course, in the response from product engineering chief Ken Kocienda, he mentioned that once you learn how to operate Ai Pin, it becomes easy.

But the reality is, are users willing to pay for a product that requires such a steep learning curve?

Moreover, testers found that Ai Pin often fails to answer basic questions or provides incorrect responses, and it’s unresponsive to gestures.

Its slow responsiveness also diminishes its usability in daily life.

Even for an innovative AI product, arrogance has no place in the world.

So why was Humane in such a rush to launch a product that was clearly not ready? Perhaps, it was pressured by investors.

And now, the pressure is on for other AI hardware devices. Following the failure of Ai Pin’s launch, they must deliver products good enough to make people believe: this isn’t just another Ai Pin.

Unique, but I’ll only give it 4 stars.

In this review, The Verge primarily focused on two issues.

Firstly, the macro aspect: Does this device have any practical use?

In reality, users often just want to check the time, jot something down, or send a quick message. But as soon as they unlock their phones, they get distracted by TikTok, emails, or other unimportant notifications.

Considering the inconvenience of operating a phone amidst a flurry of activities, there are indeed many tasks suitable for other devices.

Hence, Ai Pin does offer some unique value.

And this leads to the second question: Should you buy this device?

The answer is simple: you shouldn’t.

Though Ai Pin is an interesting concept, it’s far from perfect and comes with many flaws.

Coupled with a $699 price tag and a monthly subscription fee of up to $24, it’s truly challenging to recommend it.

An Interaction that Leaves Much to Be Desired

One advantage of affixing Ai Pin to your chest is that you can easily reach it with either hand, even just with your pinky to wake it up.

By the way, if you’re wearing a jacket over your clothes or have long hair, chances are Ai Pin will be quite obstructed.

Returning to the point, whenever you want to converse with Ai Pin, simply long-press its front touchpad and then speak your question or command; no wake word necessary.
You can also perform certain functions on Ai Pin, much like using keyboard shortcuts on a computer. For instance, double-tap with two fingers to take a photo; and tap and hold with two fingers to record a video.

This evokes memories of a decade ago when Alexa and Siri first appeared. Back then, you’d find that commanding “set a timer for 10 minutes” with your voice was much quicker than opening the clock app on your phone.

Of course, using Ai Pin can be quite conspicuous—like when you’re standing in front of a building, tapping your chest and talking to yourself.

However, if you want to perform more complex operations, here’s the catch—the user interface of Ai Pin is just too complex.

For example, during the unlocking process, you need to select numbers by moving your hand back and forth through a series of digits and then confirm the selection by pinching with your thumb and forefinger.

After unlocking, you’ll see a screen similar to a home screen, where you can check for new messages or calls and swipe with your finger on the menu to see the time, date, and weather.

When scrolling the screen, you need to tilt your hand slightly forward and backward.

To access the settings, you need to move your hand outward until a new circular menu appears. In this menu, you need to rotate your hand as if you have a marble in your palm.

It’s important to note that your hand can’t be too far from Ai Pin, otherwise, the projection will be lost…

Speaking of projection, the “Laser Ink” feature of Ai Pin is the closest thing to a screen.

You can activate it by tapping on the touchpad or by using voice commands to “display” certain content.

If you’re interacting with Ai Pin, it’s even easier. Just raise your hand, and it will project text onto your hand.

Each time Ai Pin prepares to project, it first emits a green dot to locate your palm, yes, only the palm.

Despite its resolution being only 720p and projecting only green light, the effect is decent indoors.

However, in bright outdoor light, the projection is almost invisible.

Not only slow but also low success rate

Every time Ai Pin tries to perform an action, it has to go through Humane’s servers for processing.

If you’re lucky, this process will be very slow; if you’re unlucky, it will fail completely.

In an ideal scenario, Ai Pin still has some impressive moments.

For instance, a journalist standing in front of a restaurant, holding down the touchpad and asking, “Check out this restaurant, tell me how it’s rated.”

Ai Pin would take a picture, use models to recognize the scene in front, and then search online for relevant reviews and provide feedback: “Tacombi has a high rating, customers particularly love their Mexican corn tortillas and friendly service.”

This process is very convenient, saving a lot of time and steps compared to operating on a smartphone.

But most of the time, after you ask a question, you’ll be left waiting endlessly, ultimately getting nothing.

In one test, even with a huge “Joe & The Juice” sign in front and a GPS chip in the device, Ai Pin still couldn’t recognize which restaurant it was.

In addition, when trying to make a call, half the time it didn’t even dial the number.

When someone calls in, half the time Ai Pin would directly transfer the call to voicemail, or even not ring at all.

Overall, for every successful interaction using Ai Pin, there are three to four experiences of failure.

Regarding this, journalists say the only thing you can really rely on Ai Pin for these days is to tell the current time.

You have no idea what it’s doing

One of the challenges faced by Ai Pin, ChatGPT, and all other AI products is: you can’t see how they work, so it’s hard to understand how to use them.

AI advocates believe this is precisely the design intention—technology should work automatically, and users shouldn’t need to understand the specific operations.

In contrast, the smartphones we use constantly provide feedback—colored buttons indicate where to click, and every touch, pinch, or scroll results in an immediate response. In simple terms, you can clearly see various options and their outcomes.

When using Ai Pin, it’s like making a wish on a star: you just close your eyes and hope everything goes as planned. But most of the time, nothing happens.

According to The Verge, today’s Ai Pin is just a beta version, a prototype, a proof of concept.

Perhaps one day, it will become a versatile killer product, but that day has not yet arrived.

For now, you can only use it for 3 minutes.

Similarly, Brian X. Chen, a reporter from The New York Times, conducted an in-depth review.

Just as he was preparing for a vacation to Hawaii, while packing his luggage, he casually asked, “Besides T-shirts and swim trunks, what else do I need to bring?”

Ai Pin quickly suggested, “Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.”

Smooth Conversation Translation

In addition to these daily suggestions, Ai Pin also has a major highlight—it can translate conversations into other languages.

First, press with one finger and select the language you want to translate into, such as Mandarin.

Then, press with two fingers and say an English phrase, and Ai Pin will respond in Mandarin, and vice versa.

Moreover, Ai Pin’s translations for mainstream languages like Spanish, French, and Indonesian are quite accurate.

For example, in the following video of “English to Indonesian” translation, our dialogue, one sentence at a time, flows as smoothly as if we had a personal translator with us.


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Visual Functionality, Better Than Nothing

In terms of visual capability, Ai Pin utilizes its built-in camera and AI to analyze the surrounding environment and tell you what you’re looking at.

For instance, if you hold up a biscuit and ask, “Is this healthy?”

Ai Pin will promptly reply, “Biscuits are high in carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain, so they’re not considered healthy.”

Furthermore, you can delve into the topic by asking, “How can I make biscuits tastier?”

Ai Pin can then guide you on how to make them from scratch.


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However, while on vacation, when he asked what the name of the flower in front of him was, Ai Pin replied, “This flower is yellow with red stripes inside.”

The answer was correct, but it didn’t address the question.

At this point, his wife chimed in: “That’s a Solandra maxima.”

No “fancy tech and very alive,” just simply taking a photo with a phone and uploading it to Google Images for a search…

Replacing the Smartphone is Out of the Question

Similar to a smartphone, Ai Pin has its own phone number and cellular data connection, allowing it to make calls and play music. Additionally, its camera can be used for photography and video recording.

However, Ai Pin’s performance in these functions not only fails to surpass the smartphones it aims to “replace” but even falls short.

During calls, while it can dial contacts from the address book through the assistant, dialing a new number requires dictating each digit individually.

Whether photos or videos, the results are very blurry and underexposed.

In terms of entertainment, it only supports a very niche music streaming service—Tidal.

Moreover, when he tried to recall the name of a food truck near the vacation hotel that makes loco moco, Ai Pin couldn’t find any information.

In the end, he resorted to opening his phone and using traditional search methods.

Other issues, such as the grand illusion of big-model problems, are even rarer.

For example, Ai Pin states: the square root of 49 is 49…


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What’s even more frustrating is that approximately three minutes after use, Ai Pin will automatically shut down due to overheating, far from the 9-minute “theoretical value” claimed by Humane.

However, Brian mentioned that he still appreciates the fashionable design and concept of the pin.

But he definitely won’t spend $700 on Ai Pin, let alone the $24 monthly subscription fee and T-Mobile’s data service.

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