Quinn Nelson, producer of the technology YouTube channel Snazzy Labs, posted on the social media website X a link to Humane’s new owner’s guide video, which, according to Bethany Bongiorno, Humane’s chief executive, was meant for Ai Pin buyers “to help them understand how to use” their Ai Pins before they arrive next month. Bongiorno said she would speak with her team about putting it up on YouTube, which I think is a good idea since I feel it’s the most interesting demonstration of the device yet. It’s produced well, the presenters are knowledgeable, it doesn’t have any discernibly sloppy mistakes, and it’s the most lengthy, detailed walkthrough of the Ai Pin’s features yet. I watched the 30-minute video after my slamming of the device in November to try to learn more about the Ai Pin more, and I recommend everyone do too — it’s what Humane’s initial announcement should’ve been.

But that’s just criticism of the video. The product, the Ai Pin — an artificial-intelligence-powered lapel pin with a projector, camera, microphone, and speaker — is still lackluster at best. The video was broken up into a few sections: hardware and accessories, voice interactions, the camera and images, the Laser Ink Display — essentially a projector that displays an image onto a user’s hand — music, memory, telephone calls and text messages, and “Humane.Center,” the website used to control the Ai Pin.

  1. Hardware: The battery booster appears to be compulsory in most cases and enables what Humane calls the “Perpetual Power System,” which, candidly speaking, is buzzword-filled nonsense. It’s a battery — everyone knows what a battery is — system with the ability to hot-swap boosters that clip to the underside of a shirt, holding the device in place. When the Ai Pin was fastened to a long-sleeve shirt, it didn’t pull it down, which was relieving, but Humane also sells an optional, lighter clear plastic attachment to replace the booster in case a user happens to be wearing something extra lightweight, such as workout clothing. Humane didn’t show the device clipped to a T-shirt, though, which is the most common article of clothing it’ll be attached to, and the presenters mostly wore long-sleeve jackets — for which there is a clip that can be fastened to thicker coats — and sweaters, which is concerning. (Maybe this is just because it’s spring.)
  2. Voice interactions: As demonstrated in previous Humane videos, the primary method of interaction is the voice assistant, which is accessed via the touchpad and a series of gestures. There are simply way too many gestures — they’re all variations of tapping or holding down one or two fingers to activate certain features like the camera or laser projector. And again, I do not understand the point of having such an assistant attached to a shirt — the Action Button on iPhone 15 Pro does the same thing. The assistant was also slow at times, requiring presenters to continue to speak to the camera as they waited for the assistant to give a response to distract from the deafening silence of a computer sending queries to a server. It also seems to take a while for internet-related queries, such as searching for the weather. A smartphone seems like a more cost-effective and less-distracting option for most — especially when in public.
  3. Camera: The Ai Pin acts like a more personal version of Google Lens, and I think it’s fascinating. This is the most compelling use case for the product yet since carrying a smartphone around for quick spur-of-the-moment shots is often cumbersome. Sometimes, something needs to be captured instantly, without distraction, and the camera on the Ai Pin executes this perfectly. (The quality of the produced images isn’t spectacular, but it’s a small device.) I also liked the feature where you can point the device at anything, such as a book or building, and have the voice assistant provide information about it, but I’d much rather be able to view and read this information rather than have a voice narrate it to me via a loudspeaker that everyone around me can hear.
  4. The Laser Ink display: The only way of visually viewing and interacting with information from the Ai Pin is the Laser Ink display, as Humane calls it, a projector that activates when the device is asked a question and detects a palm out in front of it. The laser projector, while bright, seems less than ideal for dense, small text, since it isn’t very crisp — especially in broad daylight. Also, palm space is limited, so the device can only project small messages and large interface controls. Navigating the interface requires quite a bit of skill, too. There is a singular solution to all of this: a smartphone. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide carry 6-inch bright, crisp, colorful organic-LED displays with powerful processors and high pixel densities in their pockets daily, and the Ai Pin seems like a compromised, unnecessary version of a technology that already exists. The Ai Pin’s laser display is worthless.
  5. Music: Anyone who chooses to listen to music on this lapel pin is a psychotic human being.
  6. Memory: The usefulness of this “memory” feature — which exists due to the nature of AI large language models, such as the one from OpenAI that powers the Ai Pin — is minimal because it does not interact with iOS or Android at all. Most people communicate with others and store quick notes on their smartphones, and thus, their corpus of human connections and personal anecdotes is stored in one locked-down place. Humane has no plan to access that corpus — instead, it’s relying on people to use the Ai Pin exclusively to send text messages, make phone calls, and store quick notes. (Apparently, its own employees can’t even use the Ai Pin’s notes feature exclusively.) The “memory” features of the voice assistant — which come into play when a user asks questions like, “Catch me up on message conversations,” or, “Where did I park?” — will only be useful if someone decides to store their life’s information on their Ai Pin rather than their phone, a behavior I don’t think anyone, not even Humane’s diehard users, will partake in.
  7. Telephone calls and messages: Continuing on the previous theme, the Ai Pin does not connect to a user’s smartphone whatsoever — Humane instead encourages users to make telephone calls, join group messages, and do all of their communication via the Ai Pin, which isn’t even possible, since it doesn’t support most messaging services like Slack or WhatsApp at launch. It’s a ludicrous strategy that will never take off — period. The fact that Humane thinks anyone will choose to have their phone calls on a loudspeaker in public or use an AI voice assistant to write text messages is so astonishing to me. On a related note, did you know some companies sell telephones that you can take anywhere and that also happen to connect to all the instant messaging services in the world? You can get one for less than the price of an Ai Pin — groundbreaking.
  8. Humane.Center: There is not even a smartphone app to manage the Ai Pin, which seems like it would be the most basic of requirements for any internet-connected product made in 2024. Humane doesn’t think so, instead developing a web portal for access to user data. This website is the only way to access images taken with the device, add contacts, view full text message threads and call logs, and change settings, like connecting to a Wi-Fi network or adding “integrations,” Humane’s term for third-party software. The on-device projection interface is so lackluster and limited that I don’t think anyone would seriously want to use it — and waving a palm around in the air seems like it would feel like a royal pain after more than a minute — so the only way to interact with the information the Ai Pin provides is a website. It’s just insulting.

So yes, I’m still not bullish on the Ai Pin. It’s a bad smartphone that does less than a smartphone while being slower than one and being more annoying than any other modern consumer product. And it’s $800 with a $25-a-month subscription for a second phone number and no phone integration. Great video, terrible product. Go back to the drawing board, Humane — but please do publish this video on YouTube.