If you’ve ever had a long drawn out conversation with an Amazon Echo where it completely fails to understand what you’re on about, you’ll be rather sceptical of a screenless AI-powered future.
And yet that’s what Humane — a company founded five years ago by former Apple executives — seems to have up its sleeve. Or rather, on its chest.
Over the weekend, extracts of an upcoming TED talk where Imran Chaudhri — the former director of design on Apple’s human interface team, and now president of Humane — demoed a prototype device went viral. You too will be able to channel your inner Captain Kirk by tapping your chest anytime you want a chat!
So what can the mystery device do? Four functions have been shared from the talk so far. The first is that of a basic digital assistant. “Catch me up, “ Chaudhri says, and Humane’s chatty badge duly condenses calendar invites, emails and other messages into a human-like digest.
It’s also got a projector and camera inside. The former is for those situations when you just can’t do without a screen. For example when your wife — in this case played by Humane CEO Bethany Bongiorno, formerly software engineering director at Apple — calls ‘unexpectedly’ in the middle of a TED talk.
The latter, meanwhile, isn’t so that everyone can have their own bodycam on the go at all times, but so that the AI can ‘see’ things to offer helpful input. Like telling you whether you should eat a Milky Bar when you have an intolerance to cocoa butter (spoiler: you should not).
Finally, Chaudhri claims it can translate your words on the fly, and do so in such a way that it sounds like your own voice speaking the language.
It’s important not to get too excited for this brave new world given this is a very controlled demo. The translation in particular looks a bit dubious. How does the device know it’s translating a phrase without instruction? And how does it know it should be in French?
Hopefully the full TED talk should be available to view soon. At the time of writing, it’s yet to arrive on the TED site or YouTube channel, but keep checking back: it must have been recorded for a reason, after all.