Humane, a five-year old artificial intelligence (AI) startup, announced its new $700 ‘Ai Pin,’ a wearable personal AI clip, on 9 November 2023.

The display-less pin uses a voice assistant, comes with a laser ink display projected onto the user’s palm, a Snapdragon processor with a dedicated Qualcomm AI engine, an ultra-wide RGB camera, depth sensor and motion sensors, and speakers.

The wearable AI pin works on its own forthcoming T-Mobile-powered MVNO, bringing telcos into the AI equation. But this first-generation standalone AI wearable will not be replacing a smartphone – at least not yet.

A Humane smartphone replacement?

Replacing a smartphone is a tall order. A personal device is so universal that it has become an essential commodity having changed how consumers live their lives, work, and consume content.

A device that means to replace it – as Humane Ai Pin attempts to – will not happen overnight. Humane Ai Pin launched quietly, and tech journalists weren’t allowed to tinker with it as recently as last week, which indicates the experimental nature of this device. But it is a step toward a more modern world of disappearing ubiquitous tech.

The device is small, conspicuous, and wearable, and it offers ‘screen-less’ tech – a welcome attribute in a screen-addicted world. The capability at the heart of this device is the ability to access an AI assistant to answer a user’s question when prompted versus requiring them to go to the right app on a phone to find information.

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Telcos can now partake in the AI revolution

The AI pin works on Humane’s own MVNO, based on the T-Mobile US network. This brings telcos into the AI equation and gives them the opportunity to partake in AI-based revenues.

However; the telecom world is littered with failed, niche MVNOs, which is a sobering fact for any company, especially a new startup with an unproven product. A $24 per month subscription provides for unlimited calling, texting, and data through Humane’s MVNO on T-Mobile’s network, cloud storage for videos and pictures, and the ability to make unlimited AI-based queries.

Compared to the pricier mobile service plans available in the US market, a $24 per month cost seems far more appealing to cash-strapped consumers.

Humane also does not offer a monthly instalment payment plan for a device that costs as much as a premium smartphone, a perk that US consumers are used to getting. Adding on yet another device in this age of burgeoning sustainability efforts – and one that is unclear in how it fits into consumer lives – not to mention the accessories that would be needed, will be a limiting factor.

The pin is likely to remain an experimental model in its first-generation iteration rather than a device that replaces a smartphone.