Two former Apple bigwigs are trying to kill their self-created monster. Humane has been building an iPhone killer for years. Silicon Valley is thrilled, and thanks to a new TEDTalk, we’ve got a slightly confusing first taste.
When prominent Apple veterans launch a secretive startup, you know it’s time to pay attention.
Humane: secret start-up of Apple veterans
Especially if it’s Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno. Chaudhri was Apple’s Director of Design for 21 years, responsible for the userexperience from your iPhone, among others. Bongiorno was ultimately responsible for the software engineering of iOS and macOS. So not the least names.
However, they left the tech giant in 2019, and a new name soon emerged: Humane. Their brand new startup. Besides doing something revolutionary with a focus on making technology more human, the actual focus of Humane remained a mystery for three years. They were in stealth mode.
That changed a few months ago leaksand at the end of last month Chaudhri finally unveiled the so-called breakthrough that the tech world has been waiting for years.
He demoed their product, a wearable gadget with a projected screen and AI functions that acts as a personal assistant. The target? Stop staring at your phone all day. The gadget is completely self-contained.
Calling without a smartphone
During the short demo, Chaudri showed how the nameless gadget works. He carries the device in the breast pocket of his jacket. You can talk to it, as if it were Alexa or Google Assistant, but you can also control it through gestures or hand gestures.
“Imagine: you’re in meetings all day and you just want a recap of what you missed,” said Chaudhri, before tapping the device and asking to be updated. In response, the device provides a summary of “emails, calendar invites, and messages.” What makes Humane’s gadget more futuristic than current smart assistants is not only the advanced use of AI, according to Chaudri, but also the fact that the device can project a screen.
— Michael Mofina (@MichaelMofina) April 21, 2023
During the demonstration, Chaudri receives a call from Bongiorno, Humane founder and also his wife. The phone conversation is then projected onto Chaudri’s hand. The projection even shows buttons on his hand, but the Apple veteran unfortunately did not show how you can interact with them. The promise is that the device understands exactly what you are looking at through the built-in camera, and can project information based on that context. Think of the doorknob of the AirBnB where you just arrived, on which the gadget projects the previously emailed pin code.
Screenless, seamless experience
So the promise is huge. “We like to say that the experience is screenless, seamless, and smart, allowing you to access the power of technology while remaining present in your environment, restoring a balance that has been out of whack for some time,” said Chaudri.
The @Humane wearable doing English->French AI translation in your own voice… wow. (SOUND ON)
Video credit @ZarifAli9
— Ray Wong (@raywongy) April 21, 2023
The iPhone veteran is of course talking about the fact that we are all smartphone addicts, and spend half a day staring at our screens. An addiction in which the former Apple boss himself has contributed considerably.
More questions than answers about ‘invisible iPhone’
Anyway, Chaudri and Bongiorno want to restore that balance. The goal is not to make the iPhone completely superfluous, but to ensure that you do not have to reach for your distracting screen much less quickly. A noble goal, and investors are very enthusiastic, but how futuristic and brilliant the gadget really is, we can only discover in practice. The technology stands or falls with how smartly and seamlessly Humane’s device can respond to our environment and lives. That’s an extremely, extremely high bar. It requires a degree of integration with other apps and interfaces in a hurry unprecedented is. Seamless is soon… Not seamless.
Moreover, the demo raises more questions than we are impressed with the technology itself. Attentive viewers and journalists have already noticed on Twitter that the interaction with the gadget appears to be at least partly fake. Incidentally, that would not be startling: almost every gadget reveal is completely staged. Also that of the original iPhone, which barely worked when Steve Jobs showed it to the world.
However, it means that we still hardly know whether Humane can fulfill its great promises, ambition and combination of talents. Yes, we now know roughly what they are working on, but that’s about it. The secretive startup has therefore not yet released any information such as release dates or prices. The long wait just continues! In the meantime, check out the Humane website.
Also check what the ‘i’ stands for in Apple products such as the iPhone.
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