I bought into the AI hype and all I got was an orange square

Rabbit R1 next to Miyoo Mini Plus and Game Boy Advance SP
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)
Beyond the Alphabet

Android Central's LLoyd with a projection with a Google logo

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Beyond the Alphabet is a weekly column that focuses on the tech world both inside and out of the confines of Mountain View.

In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Humane is reportedly looking to sell. The same can't yet be said for Rabbit, but no matter what, don't buy what these companies are telling you. I did, at least with the Rabbit R1, and it's looking more and more like I was finally bamboozled.

Getting in on the ground floor with AI gadgets

Rabbit R1 and Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

I've been pretty skeptical about devices like the Humane AI Pin and the Rabbit R1. After all, what's the point when my phone, or smartwatch, is capable of doing almost everything these devices aim to deliver? While I never thought twice about getting the AI Pin, I did buy the R1, mainly because the design looks cool. It also helps that the R1 is $199, without a monthly subscription, while Humane charges $699 and then you have to pay another $25 per month.

Although done in different ways, ultimately, both the AI Pin and R1 essentially aim to become their own AI-powered virtual assistant. With the former, there's a bunch of cool and unique tech built-in, as you can use your voice or via the "Laser Ink" display that appears in the palm of your hand. As for the latter, it's more like a phone in that you still have to take it out of your pocket and press the "push-to-talk" button before you can start to use it.

AI pin projection

(Image credit: Humane)

There's definitely an argument to be made about how the AI Pin is the "better" option of the two. It lets you "enjoy the world around you," without cranking your neck down to look at your phone while trying to find the closest coffee shop.

But, I'm not here to talk about how one is better than the other. I'm here because I can't help but feel like I've been scammed for the first time.

What happened

The Coffeezilla video above appeared on my YouTube home page, and I was both excited and terrified. Coffeezilla has a reputation for doing some of the best investigative work on YouTube, covering everything from largely focusing on different types of crypto scams and "get rich quick" schemes.

I never really got into the crypto game, outside of messing around with it in small quantities a few years ago. But, when seeing the thumbnail of the Rabbit R1, I knew it wasn't going to be good. And so far, it hasn't been.

It appears as though this isn't the first time that Rabbit CEO, Jesse Lyu, has been in some sort of spotlight. According to Coffeezilla, Rabbit was previously called "Cyber Manufacture," and raised $6 million in relation to its "next-generation NFT project GAMA."

Using our trusty friend, the Wayback Machine, I pulled up the old GAMA website. In a snapshot from April 2023, the front page shows GAMA as being described as "building the principles of the future through its next generation metaverse, the GAMA Space Station." This included creating "GAMA Coin" which Lyu describes as being "basically Bitcoin 2.0." 

Lyu goes on to say "So the general concept is, let's say if you own a GAMA NFT, that means you own the equal portion in valuation of your NFT's, at that moment of that clean energy grid that we started building in the real world. [...] And that also means that you own that portion of that power and that power will be used to generate GAMA Coins. That means you can earn your GAMA Coins out of this entire clean energy cycle."


Since GAMA has vanished, what happened to those who bought NFT's, believing in GAMA's mission? At the time, Jesse Lyu is quoted as saying "And I better pay my money to collect your NFT back if you think this is just a NFT hype and dump project, I have to say that." 

As it turns out, that last part never happened. In response to the Coffeezilla video, Rabbit provided the following:

"The "coin you refer to never materialized nor was it promised or delivered. The idea was brought up during some conversations with both major investors and community members. The team ultimately decided to not release any "coins." Jesse and the GAMA team have never released cryptocurrency or "coins in any form. The only ownership objects community members could own are blockchain-based digital art and unique gaming avatars."

In response to Coffeezilla's questions regarding the relationship between GAMA and Rabbit, a statement says "GAMA, in our opinion and as stated in the fact sheet, has no connection with rabbit."

You can go further down the rabbit GAMA hole, but it all just reads like the various crypto and NFT scams that promise the world, take your money, and disappear into the night. This is where my skepticism comes into play.

Android Central subsequently also reached out to the company about the investigation, and a spokesperson for Rabbit provided the following:

"The GAMA project concluded when it was open-sourced. Jesse strongly disputes Coffeezilla’s allegations that he and the GAMA team were not forthright about the open sourcing of the project, which had the support of investors, and his shift in focus to AI hardware. Jesse has a long history as an entrepreneur and has been involved in a range of projects over his career, including the GAMA NFT project. It’s a project he has talked about at length in the past, but it ended before he started rabbit. At the end of the day, many companies do pivot."

Overpromise, under-deliver

Teased services during Rabbit R1 launch video

(Image credit: Rabbit / YouTube)

It's very similar to what tech companies have done for years: promising things to its customers, taking their money for devices, and then either delaying or never shipping the promised features.

Funnily enough, it's exactly the same thing that Rabbit has done with the R1. When the R1 was introduced, it was promised to basically act as a "bridge" between you and the different services you rely on. During the launch video, you briefly see a glimpse of different services, including Amazon, eBay, Best Buy, Postmates, and more.

What's actually available now with the R1 pales in comparison. And in many cases, things just don't work. Sure, it's cool to be able to point the R1's camera at something and have it tell you what it is. You can even set up MidJourney, an AI image generator, as one of the services and then ask the R1 to create images with just your voice. Well, that is, if it actually works. 

Rabbit R1 Midjourney fail

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Here's the thing, though, that rectangle in your pocket can already do that. Plus, a few of the features shown off during the R1 launch video are still missing. The list of "planned" additions includes the likes of "point-of-interest research," "navigation," and "reservations."

Not to mention that when the R1 arrived, many early adopters couldn't even change their time zone. Even with built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and cellular, the time zone remained the same. It wasn't until about a week later before a software update fixed that specific issue.

However, I have to give credit where credit is due. 

Since its launch, the R1 has received five software updates "directly addressing customer feedback and launching new features." The most recent of which includes seven new features, such as a new "list view," and the ability to "take pictures on r1 with a single click of the ptt button." There are also five fixes "thanks to rabbit community support," primarily focused on network and Bluetooth connectivity.

When speaking to Rabbit, a spokesperson informed me that there are about "10,000 or so" R1 owners in the wild. Of that number, R1 owners "have generated more than 600,000 interactions over the past thirty days." The spokesperson went on to tell me that it's "being used for more than 20,000 queries per day."

While the number of units might seem like peanuts compared to the number of phones that are being sold, it's not an insignificant amount. Let alone that the R1 resides in a new product category.  

Learning about the alleged origins of Rabbit as a company, paired with what we've seen so far, didn't leave me feeling great about the future. But then, OpenAI kind of put both Humane and Rabbit on notice.

There's no escaping AI

AI count of 121 at Google I/O

(Image credit: Google)

Everywhere we look, the phrase "AI" is being used, even if it's being done improperly. Hell, Google CEO Sundar Pichai even called it out at the end of the I/O 2024 Keynote. Of course, in some instances, it's just a buzzword that companies are using to try and score SEO points and jump on the hype train, or worse, entice investors.

However, companies like Google and OpenAI are taking a different approach to the AI-powered digital assistant. The day before I/O 2024 began, OpenAI held an event where it introduced GPT-4o.

This is a new AI model basically does everything that the R1 and AI Pin promised. That includes using it to "answer questions about your surroundings, talk to you with audio, and respond to text." All from an app on your phone. OpenAI even managed to improve the response speed with GPT-4o, down to 232 milliseconds from the previous 320 milliseconds average response time.

The real kicker for Humane and Rabbit is that OpenAI wasted no time getting this into the hands of consumers. Its improved text and image capabilities were available for everyone in ChatGPT on the day GPT-4o was announced. Meanwhile, ChatGPT Plus members received access to Voice Mode "in alpha."

Then, Google followed up the next day with what felt like the longest I/O Keynote in history. Upgrades were announced across the board, with Gemini gaining multimodality, making it possible to "provide reason for images and videos uploaded" to the model.

Google also gave everyone a tease by showing that those same multimodal capabilities would be coming to our phones. This will be possible via the Gemini Nano model, which is currently available on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

Both Gemini and ChatGPT have the added benefit of either "Extensions" or "GPTs," adding more functionality to these AI-powered assistants. And, any updates or changes that are implemented, are available as soon as these companies decide. Meanwhile, you'll have to wait for Humane or Rabbit to implement the changes, then likely wait for an update to arrive.

I asked Rabbit about what it envisioned for the future of the company and its little orange box. A Rabbit spokesperson provided the following:

“At rabbit, we stand behind our product, technology and vision to build a personalized operating system that can understand users’ intentions and intuitively help them get things done. We firmly believe that we are building something new in a frontier category and that it requires a different approach from the existing personal devices that are already in the market. AI-native products are quickly evolving and improving at exponential rates, and we are looking forward to what we can build in this new industry.”

I should've seen the writing on the wall

The announcement of GPT-4o.

(Image credit: OpenAI)

Let's try and wrap everything up in a nice bow. Humane is looking to sell, according to a report by Bloomberg. Ignoring the exorbitant asking price of something "between $750 million and $1 billion," it was always going to come to this.

Any piece of hardware that is built with the intention of making AI easier to access will be doomed. Well, that'll be the case for as long as we're able to use the Gemini or ChatGPT apps on our phones. They'll be updated faster, and the only "middle-man" we have to worry about is Apple with its App Store or Google with its Play Store.

While this is all alleged, I'm incredibly disappointed in myself for falling into the rabbit trap. I stepped right into it without looking at where I was going or what was going to happen on the other side. Now, I have a $200 prop that I'll use in pictures just because it looks so sleek, thanks to Teenage Engineering.

Unless someone at Rabbit reads this and turns it into a paperweight, I'll also keep trying out the R1 occasionally. Just to see if the company can prove me wrong. But, based on its history, I won't be holding my breath.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks and tablets

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.