Thanks to a leaked video, we’ve got our first glimpse at the super-secret wearable that Humane – a company founded by former Apple veterans – is working on. But as impressive as the pocket projector looks, we have doubts that it will replace our best smartphones or best smartwatches any time soon.
The unnamed device sounds pretty cool and offers a wide range of benefits, according to a demo video obtained and shared by Reciprocal (opens in a new tab). You carry the device in your shirt or coat pocket, and with gestures and voice control, you can direct the AI-powered tool to assist you with conversations, translations, scanning items, and much more.
In clips shared online from an upcoming TED talk, we see Imran Chaudhri, Chairman and CEO of Humane, demonstrate these features in some impressive-looking demonstrations.
In one clip, Chaudhri is shown simply holding down a button on the device, saying a sentence in English, then the same sentence being repeated in French. What’s even more impressive is that the AI assistant takes over Chaudhri’s voice for translation – making it sound like he’s saying the sentence rather than a robot.
@Humane wearable is doing an AI translation from English to French in his own voice… wow. (SOUND ON) Video credit @ZarifAli9 Read exclusive info on Humane wearable features: pic.twitter.com/cmAWEU8DFSApril 21, 2023
The device can also help you with the Catch Me Up feature. Instead of pinging you with constant notifications – which can be very annoying when you’re busy – Catch Me Up will provide you with breakdowns of important details you missed, such as emails received, calendar invites you need to respond to, and other messages.
Interestingly, Humane wearables – unlike many of the best smartwatches – do not connect to a smartphone, and how exactly it obtains this information is not clear. We assume the device will have 5G-like features that can keep it connected to cloud services, but we’ll have to wait for Humane to reveal more details to know for sure.
“Catch me”, a summary of the highlights you might have missed while you were busy, on your @humane device. pic.twitter.com/AAIgh2ChfmApril 21, 2023
A technique too good to be true?
The problem with the demo is that these points make us say, “This looks amazing, but how does it work in practice?”
An example would be both the Catch Me Up feature and the translation feature demo. Chaudhri seems to activate them by simply holding down a button on the device. As for the translation, he gives no additional instructions, not even that he wants him to speak French. Unless the clips were edited to cut out a clunky setup – there’s a cut right before the translation demo starts – we find it hard to believe that this is a proper demonstration of how the Humane device will actually work.
In addition, we are skeptical that voice control will be so practical. Voice control is clunky at the best of times. We’ve all had trouble communicating with Alexa and Google’s smart speakers at home, and I’ve yet to see a company do a demo of these products that worked completely seamlessly – even under ideal conditions, mishaps happen.
So forgive us for not being confident that Humane’s AI-powered pocket-sized device will run smoothly when we’re out and about in the real world – surrounded by noisy vehicles, people and other distractions that might get in the way of our voice getting through Clearly .
Plus, there’s the device’s projector display – instead of using the screen to see who’s calling him during the demonstration, Chaudhri holds his hand in front of the device and projects an image of the caller ID onto it. It looks neat (if a little awkward), but despite the icons – like the mute and disconnect symbol – it’s unclear from the demo if these are useful buttons or just decoration (we suspect the latter).
The first demo of the upcoming @Humane AI-powered wearable. Call. Thanks @ZarifAli9 for sharing! pic.twitter.com/7qyDScPkOhApril 21, 2023
The video angle can hide that Chaudhri is tapping the Humane device with his other hand, but despite the cross symbol appearing on his hand and a tick to accept or decline the call, he does not press any. The conversation automatically starts right after he says “Excuse me, that’s my wife” – again making us feel like this demo doesn’t quite show us how the device would work in the real world.
For now, these are just clips and leaks from parts of a larger movie – we’ll need Humane’s full release and statements to properly understand what its device is really capable of. But for now, we feel the demo is a little too good to be true.