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Humane is a secretive startup founded by ex-Apple employees that appears to be working on a wearable camera that uses lasers to project a screen. Details that previously emerged come from a patent filing, but this week an investor pitch slide deck from 2021 leaked (via Daring Fireball) to provide our best overview of the product being built.
Humane says its device “will take over micro transactions that once required a smart phone and are now even simple, faster and more fluid with the aid of sight assisted context awareness.” The company clearly has its sights on being your primary device, with last year’s big ad criticizing looking down at phones, raising your wrist to look at smartwatches, and wearing VR headsets/AR glasses on your head.
Mantle of Productivity
An announcement is expected in the spring, but from what we know today, it sure sounds more like a smartwatch competitor – in that it’s a companion to your daily driver – rather than something that could one day replace your phone.
The smartphone might be the greatest form factor in existence due to its immense portability and functionality – that latter trait is derived from screens that are big enough to allow you to accomplish nearly everything from consuming to creating text, audio, and video. Some tasks might not be ideal on a comparatively small screen, but it’s possible.
For something to come along and replace phones as people’s primary computing device, a form factor has to do more than just offer the same feature set (people like tech they’re familiar with). It has to be meaningfully better, specifically in the display department. (Smart glasses could generate virtual screens of any size anywhere and overlay information over the real world.)
Not having a big enough screen or other equivalent seems like a disqualifier for a phone competitor. Humane’s display appears to use laser projection on your hand or other surface. I see it sufficient for quick tasks and short bits of text, but it’s harder to imagine, for example, reading an article.
Humane might have a technological breakthrough in that regard, but it doesn’t seem that laser projection – a portable system at that – will match a traditional touchscreen anytime soon in terms of visual fidelity or input, with tapping and “natural gestures” touted.
(The company would probably argue something along the lines of: smartphones are isolating and that the act of looking at the world disconnects you from the world. It would presumably propose that its device preserves context, which is the promise if AR overlays in general.)
Smartwatch, but AR?
Rather, Humane’s limitations remind me of the smartwatch. Both have impaired screens that you don’t want to spend too much time interacting with but can as needed, while each can take advantage of their physical placement on your body. In the way a wrist-worn wearable excels at capturing heart rate and other health data, a camera affixed to your chest naturally has a clear view of the world.
The camera functionality Humane describes is basically Google Lens with users able to look at something and ask, “What kind of car is that? “What is that building?” etc. Like on smart glasses, cameras let the device know about the world you’re looking at and the possibilities for always-on visual context awareness have yet to be truly explored. (That is Humane’s promise.)
Besides search, Humane suggests experiences like memory recall and personal live broadcasting. AI-infused visual search and context aside, having an always-ready camera to take POV shots was very nice on Google Glass.
Humane (maybe unintentionally) raises the interesting question of whether the functionality of a smartwatch, sans health and body vitals, works in other form factors. (Can we call it a combadge as communication is a key function of any modern gadget?) Do people want a combadge with AR capabilities to provide contextual information? It remains to be seen how Humane ultimately markets the device, but there’s something rather interesting and new (until smart glasses are ready) regardless of their positioning that could inspire others.
Android 14 is taking shape with Developer Preview 2. Here’s everything new, but the clear highlights are:
- Media player gains new animations and UI enhancements
- Flash notifications on Pixel will let you emulate a notification LED
- Settings app gains wild in-app predictive back gesture
- Pixel phones gain monochrome theme, prep for custom clocks
- Pixel phones set to gain ‘Emoji Lab’ wallpaper creator [Gallery]
Video: Android 14 Developer Preview 2 hands-on
Ears-on: Pixel Buds Pro head tracking Spatial Audio is a gimmick begging for content
Planes, trains, and automobiles: These blurry subway photos may offer the latest Pixel Fold leak [Gallery]
Review: Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 is the MacBook to your Galaxy smartphone
What (else) is happening:
Google I/O 2023 takes place May 10: A one-day event
Google One brings VPN to $1.99/month plan + dark web info monitoring: Ascendent indeed
Messages rolling out the new icons for read receipts
Google Cloud’s ‘Immersive Stream for Games’ was shut down alongside Stadia: So, what happened to the GPUs?
9to5Mac: Apple Music Classical launching on March 28, here’s a first look
Electrek: Hyundai says the new Kona electric will overtake gas, hybrid variants in sales
9to5Toys: Bethesda officially announces Starfield release date, new trailer, upcoming showcase, more
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