Can a lapel pin replace the smartphone? If Humane (a startup by former Apple execs) has its way, its much-buzzed-about “Ai Pin” will make screens (and more) a thing of the past. But to get people’s heads back up and out of their devices means changing the paradigm of how we learned to interact with mobile computing in the first place — not an easily attainable goal. Humane is betting on voice and gestures with AI as its pin device’s DNA as a step toward this vision. No doubt, the company has a tough road to hoe.

Consumers Are Addicted To Their Screens

Ninety-three percent of US online adults use a smartphone; that’s more than any other computing device. While the conversational interface is growing in popularity, it shouldn’t be the only option for mobile interaction — there are many instances when talking to one’s device simply isn’t conducive to the given environment. That’s what makes smartphones so ubiquitous: They allow multiple ways to interact for varying conditions. And, yes, one of those ways is voice. As for AI as a differentiator, it’s only going to become more pervasive and embedded into iOS and Android.

Form Factor Is A Factor

There are many reasons why devices like Google Glass never caught on with mass audiences — one of which was the device’s form factor. To put it bluntly, Google Glass wasn’t socially acceptable. Fast-forward past Snap’s Spectacles to Meta’s next-gen Ray-Ban smart glasses, function is embedded into more normative form. Similar (but not as egregious) as Google Glass, Humane’s first-generation Ai Pin is at odds with mass appeal. Outside of its actual look, it becomes cumbersome when removing a layer of clothing, not to mention wearing it to work out, etc.

Still, The Ai Pin Sets The Stage For The Future

Indeed, the first-generation Ai Pin is nascent. Unlike when the iPhone launched in 2007, it won’t instantly disrupt the course of culture and consumer behavior. But it has innovative bright spots nonetheless. The Ai Pin’s laser ink display (which beams an interactive display onto the palm of your hand) is the start of a new kind of interface, and the Pin’s “Catch me up” feature (which uses its AI to sort through messages and summarizes what you need to know) is the beginning of a new messaging layer — just to name a couple examples.

Ultimately, we will see the kinds of innovative seeds that Humane’s Ai Pin is planting now show up in the not-so-distant future in the very devices that it hopes to replace. Consumers aren’t going to give up their smartphones — which puts the very premise of the Ai Pin in a tough spot from its outset.