April 15, 2024

Price, release date and AI features revealed

It’s CES 2024 week in Las Vegas, also known as AI week. Artificial intelligence is integrated into many products, even those that do not necessarily need it. But we also have new hardware that revolves specifically around AI, like ChatGPT. An example is the new r1 from an AI startup called Rabbit. The device looks like a cute and fun device that is “not a phone.” It’s a different take on the post-smartphone concept that Humane is testing with the Ai Pin.

Unlike devices that can run ChatGPT to answer questions of all kinds, including Ai Pin, the Rabbit r1 is capable of doing things in your name, in mobile applications. That was exciting enough to make me consider purchasing this AI-based device.

The r1 sounds amazing until you start questioning its features. Rabbit’s r1 also seems like a better proposition than the Ai Pin, the $699 device (no subscription required) that Humane hasn’t shipped yet. It’s not that the r1 is doing better. It costs only $199, which seems too cheap for the kind of features it wants to offer. But the price is not the (only) problem.

I think the Rabbit r1, the Humane Ai Pin, and similar devices that could be in development are starting to scratch the surface of personal AI experiences that will be available directly on smartphones. As these startups try to kill off smartphones, vendors like Apple, Google, and Samsung are sure to bring features like those offered by the r1 and Ai Pin directly into iPhone and Android phones. With this in mind, why would anyone need a dedicated, standalone AI device?

The difference between Rabbit r1 and ChatGPT

Watching Rabbit’s presentation is enough to understand the difference between ChatGPT and r1. With the first one, you can’t do things online. You can ask ChatGPT to book you the cheapest hotels for your next vacation, but the chatbot will only find the deals for you. You are not equipped to navigate the user interfaces that would allow you to book your next stay. The r1 is.

Rabbit’s r1 runs on a Rabbit OS that does not support traditional applications. Rabbit OS is not (solely) based on a large language model (LLM) like ChatGPT. The company developed a “large action model” (LAM), which allows it to navigate apps and perform tasks for you.

Rabbit R1: Main hardware and software features. Image source: Rabbit

LAM allows Rabbit OS to learn how humans navigate applications regardless of platform. It learns what needs to happen for a hotel reservation to be made and does it for you with a simple voice command.

But that can’t happen until you go down to the Rabbit Hole, which is a web portal where you will log into all the services that r1 will be able to control. Examples include hotel booking services, Uber, Spotify, ChatGPT, and anything else you want AI to access.

The obvious privacy concerns

You’ll have to rely on Rabbit’s privacy claims for the device to work. The company says that no one will have access to your data. And when you give r1 access to your accounts, it won’t store login credentials. It’s not clear how this will work and the website and presentations are not enough:

When you interact with Rabbit OS, you will be assigned a dedicated, isolated environment in our cloud for your own LAM. When our rabbits perform tasks for you, they will use their own accounts that you have securely given us control over through our Rabbit Hole web portal. We do not store your passwords for these services. Rabbits will ask for permission and clarification during the execution of any task, especially those that involve sensitive actions such as payments. They will provide predictable information about whether the task was executed successfully or failed, along with a reason, thanks to our neurosymbolic research.

Interestingly, you can teach the AI ​​new interactions with apps, such as the ability to have the AI ​​perform tasks in apps. This is something I haven’t seen anywhere else…yet. One could assume that Apple and Google are currently working on adding this functionality directly to their mobile operating systems.

As for privacy, Rabbit points out that the microphone is only on when you press the button to talk to r1, so it’s not always listening. Additionally, the camera physically locks when not in use. You can turn the device upside down to stop data input and output automatically.

The push to talk button.
The push to talk button. Image source: Rabbit

What about the hardware?

Since I mentioned the hardware details, I will tell you that the r1 features a 2.3GHz MediaTek Helio P35 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, USB-C connectivity, all-day battery life, and a slot for SIM. Like the Ai Pin, it is a “non-telephone” phone that needs to be connected to the Internet at all times to work. Unlike the Ai Pin, the device has a touch screen. And, for some reason, a scroll wheel.

The device itself will remind you of the Playdate gaming device released a few years ago. It will also feel like your smartphone. Hisa film that seems more current than ever.

Taking all that into account, I will say that the $199 r1 is an interesting proposition. If you can do what Rabbit says, you can do it right now. If you can do it as quickly as the presentation says. It certainly looks more exciting than the Ai Pin.

The Rabbit r1 camera.
The Rabbit r1 camera. Image source: Rabbit

Can’t Humane’s Ai Pin do the same?

Humane’s device relies on ChatGPT to answer questions. You can also use AI to respond to text messages and catch up on email, but the AI ​​Pin can’t perform in-app tasks like the r1. Humane’s device takes photos and videos and can translate languages.

On the other hand, I wonder how Rabbit can offer all the features it says it can for a single one-time payment of $199 from the user. How does that pay for the ongoing LAM investigation and the data security and privacy that Rabbit advertises? Just as I think $699 is too much to pay for the Ai Pin, the $199 price of the r1 seems too low.

I’ll also point out that just as the news about Rabbit r1 broke, word got out that Humane had started laying off people. The two events are unrelated, but it doesn’t look good for Humane, which has yet to prove to investors and the general public that Ai Pin can be a sustainable business.

The scroll wheel is located below the camera.
The scroll wheel is located below the camera. Image source: Rabbit

On that note, both Rabbit and Humane will begin shipping their AI devices this spring in the US. And Rabbit will begin taking orders globally after that. That’s another reason I almost tried to order the r1.

At the end of the day, I’m sure Apple, Google, and others will have features like what Rabbit proposes on their devices built into the operating system. I’m certainly looking forward to that. And maybe Rabbit will be bought by a mobile device maker down the road. Maybe that’s Rabbit’s real CES speech.

Whatever the case, Rabbit could have achieved the next big breakthrough in AI. And I can’t wait to see what happens next in space. I say this knowing that Jony Ive and OpenAI could be working on their own revolutionary AI device.

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