Pricey AI "Device" Turns Out to Just Be an Android App With Extra Steps

App in Rabbit's Clothing

Secretive wearables startup Humane disappointed with its AI Pin, quickly becoming one of the worst-reviewed tech products of all time.

Competitor Rabbit's R1, a similar — albeit cheaper — device that promises to be an AI chatbot-powered friend that can answer pretty much any question you can come up with, didn't fare much better, with TechRadar calling it a "beautiful mess" that "nobody needs."

"I can't believe this bunny took my money," Mashable's Kimberly Gedeon wrote in her review today. Famed YouTuber Marques "MKBHD" Brownlee slammed it as being "barely reviewable."

The bright orange gizmo left reviewers scratching their heads: what can it do that a smartphone can't, since phones already have apps for ChatGPT and chatbots like it?

As it turns out, there really isn't much to the $199 device. In fact, Android Authority discovered that the R1's entire operating system is a simple Android smartphone app and can easily be run on a different — and far more powerful — device, leaving us wondering why the hardware part even exists in the first place.

"It looks like this AI gadget could have just been an app after all," The Verge's Allison Johnson argued.

Pinned Down

Android Authority managed to get its hands on a bootlegged APK, or Android Package Kit, of what appears to be the Rabbit R1's software.

The device's "entire interface users interact with is powered by a single Android app," the publication wrote.

Once installed on a Google Pixel 6a, it worked pretty well. Android Authority even managed to create an account and set up the device.

Rabbit has shot back, publishing a statement on its X account to defend its proprietary software.

"We are aware there are some unofficial rabbit OS app/website emulators out there," Rabbit wrote, arguing that the device's operating system runs "on the cloud" with "very bespoke" Android open source software (AOSP) and "lower level firmware modifications."

However, whether those assurances will be enough to justify the gadget's price tag remains to be seen.

As The Verge points out, even Humane's AI Pin isn't much more than a glorified open-source Android project, but still somehow costs an eye-watering $700 (plus the $24 a month subscription, incredibly.)

In short, device makers are stumbling over each other to become the first mover in an entirely new and still unproven category of consumer AI devices. But given what we've seen so far, they've still got a lot to prove.

More on the AI Pin: Humane's AI "Pin" Is a $700 Flaming Dumpster Fire