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Investing in Humane: A Step Change in Human-Computer Interaction
Shifting the way we interact with the world around us.
Over the last three decades, technology platform shifts have provided some of our most visceral memories. Many can still hear the clicking sound of the iPod wheel and the feeling of disbelief as we scrolled through thousands of songs for the first time. This was a seismic shift in the way we consumed music, rendering the clunky Walkman obsolete. Expressing the emotions we experienced in that precise moment is difficult. Pure delight in its most genuine form.
As a rapidly evolving society, we’ve had the privilege of experiencing an increasing number of these magical moments. While the iPod example hits home for most, it was ultimately just a derivative moment that resulted from higher level-platform shifts at the consumer hardware and infrastructure (e.g., internet, cloud) level.
It's important to note that in every historical platform shift, advances in consumer hardware form factor came before advances in infrastructure. However, the step change in human-computer interaction primarily occurred when the subsequent advances in infrastructure were then applied to existing devices. For example, the internet unlocked the true capabilities of personal computers, allowing users to get closer to the world via greater connectivity. The same goes for cellular networks’ (e.g., 2G+) effect on mobile devices. And more recently, cloud computing enabled the delivery of software as a utility, allowing users to draw even closer to the world via mobile applications predicated on social graphs.
And yet, the cadence of innovation is different this time around. The next great shift is here, but this time it’s at the infrastructure level with artificial intelligence (AI). This poses an interesting question to innovators: with infrastructure innovation now outpacing consumer hardware innovation, should AI be used to optimize how users interact with existing devices or could it be used to spawn a new form factor that wasn’t previously fathomable?
Today, we interact with the world primarily through a mobile device. In other words, the majority of our daily attention is funneled through our screen. But could the breadth and power of AI be used to redefine human-computer interaction whereby we interact with the world in a more ambient manner, using a device to augment a real-life experience instead of to serve as a proxy for one?
This esoteric, yet tantalizing question is what makes us so incredibly thrilled to partner with ex-Apple executives Imran Chaudhri, Bethany Bongiorno and the rest of the Humane team as they usher in the new era of human-computer interaction.
At its core, Humane is creating a more fluid relationship with technology via AI-powered contextual computing, resulting in less device disruption and more interaction with humanity and the world around us.
Setting out to catalyze the next platform shift is the loftiest of goals technologists could set, but who better to pioneer such an effort than the team responsible for the iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard, elements of Apple’s industrial design and infrastructure for Apple services like iCloud, Apple Pay and Home.
The Ai Pin is Humane’s debut product, featuring a connected and intelligent clothing-based wearable device that uses a range of sensors and a camera to enable contextual and ambient compute interactions. This can include anything from object recognition (e.g., food, retail items), real-time language translation and payments, just to name a few. It also offers summaries and facilitation of all communication modalities via voice command or via an interactive laser interface onto nearby surfaces, such as your palm.
A paragraph of text doesn’t do the features any justice, so we encourage you to check out the full power of the product below.
When we first met the Humane team and saw the device in action, we felt that iPod feeling all over again. Naturally, our imaginations ran wild thinking of all of the health-related applications.
Using the Ai Pin for nutrition optimization is low-hanging fruit (no pun intended), allowing users to understand the macronutrients of any food item or package in real-time and to keep a running log of consumption each day. Whether you’re just looking to improve your diet or managing a specific chronic condition with dietary guidelines, the Ai Pin can help adherence and awareness in a significant way, and it’s exciting to see this feature included at launch.
While not a focus today, we’re also excited about potential clinical use cases down the road such as scribing and indirect and direct applications to mental health. In terms of indirect applications to mental health, the overarching mission of Humane is to drive more interaction with humanity and the world around us. In theory, decreasing exposure to screens and the toxicity of dopamine-fueled social media should help combat the increasing prevalence of mental illness. In terms of direct applications, Humane could serve as a chassis for novel voice biomarkers that can help clinicians identify, prioritize, and care for mental health patients in real-time and more seamlessly track impact of treatments.
Although the overall product vision is ambitious, Humane's approach is both elegant and strategic, stoking excitement across all different types of consumer demographics eager to experience a new and uninhibited way to explore our world.
We couldn’t be more excited to join them on their journey to build a generational device that’s ultimate goal is to make it seem like there’s no device at all, adding a layer of ambient intelligence while simultaneously freeing us from the unchecked dangers of digital addiction.
For those interested in purchasing the Ai Pin, it’s available now on the Humane website.
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