The new Humane AI-powered wearable could change everything – or nothing at all

Imran Chaudhri's hand pressing a button the the Humane device in his breast pocket
(Image credit: TED / Humane)

Thanks to a leaked video we’ve got a first glimpse of the super-secret wearable Humane – a company started by ex-Apple veterans – has been working on. But as impressive as the pocket projector looks, we have doubts it’ll replace our best smartphones or best smartwatches any time soon.

The unnamed device sounds pretty nifty and offers a wide range of benefits according to the demo video obtained and shared by Inverse. You’d wear the device in your shirt or coat’s breast pocket and using gesture and voice control you can direct the AI-powered tool to assist you with calls, translations, scanning items, and a bunch of other tasks.

In the clips shared online from an upcoming TED talk, we see Imran Chaudhri – Humane’s chairman and president, show off these features in several impressive-looking demos.

In one clip, Chaudhri is shown simply holding a button down on the device, speaking a sentence in English, and then the same phrase is repeated back in French. What’s even more impressive, is the AI assistant adopts Chaudhri’s voice for the translation – making it sound like he’s saying the phrase rather than a robot.

The device can also help you out with its Catch Me Up feature. Rather than pinging you with constant notifications – which can be super annoying when you’re busy – Catch Me Up will give you a rundown of important details you’ve missed such as emails you’ve received, calendar invites you need to respond to, and other messages.

Interestingly Humane’s wearable – unlike many of the best smartwatches– doesn’t pair with a smartphone, and how exactly it’s getting this information isn’t clear. We assume the device will have 5G-like capabilities that can keep it connected to some kind of cloud-based services but we’ll have to wait for Humane to reveal more details to know for sure.

Tech too good to be true? 

The problem with the demo is these points that make us go, “That looks awesome, but how does it practically work?”

Case in point, with both Catch Me Up and the translation feature demos Chaudhri seems to activate them by simply holding down a button on the device. For the translation, he doesn’t provide any additional instruction, not even that he wants it to speak in French. Unless the clips have been edited to cut out some clunky setup – there is a cut right before the translation demo begins – we have a hard time believing this is a proper demonstration of how Humane’s device will actually function.

Additionally, we’re skeptical that the voice controls will be all that practical. Voice controls are clunky at the best of times. We’ve all had trouble communicating with Alexa and Google smart speakers at home, and I’ve yet to see a company run a demo of these products that run completely smoothly – even under perfect conditions there are slip-ups.

So forgive us for not being confident that Humane’s AI-powered pocket device will run smoothly while we’re out and about in the real world – surrounded by noisy vehicles, people, and other distractions that would get in the way of our voice coming through clearly.

Plus there’s the device’s projector display – rather than using a screen to see who’s calling him during the demo Chaudhri holds his hand in front of the device and it projects an image onto it showing the caller id.  It looks neat (albeit a little awkward), but despite it featuring icons – such as a mute and hang-up symbol – it’s not clear from the demo if they’re usable buttons or simply decoration (we suspect they’re the latter).

The angle of the video could hide Chaudhri tapping the Humane device with his other hand but despite a cross and tick symbol appearing on his hand to accept or decline the call he presses neither. The call begins automatically just after he says “Sorry, this is my wife” – again making us feel this demo isn’t quite showing us how the device would work in the real world.

So far these are merely clips and leaks from part of a larger video – we’ll have t for a full release and statements from Humane to understand properly what its device is really capable of. But for now, we’re left feeling like the demo is a bit too good to be true. 

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.