Can A.I. and Lasers Cure Our Smartphone Addiction?

Can A.I. and Lasers Cure Our Smartphone Addiction?

An aqua blue light appeared on my outstretched palm, showing a menu. Slowly, I circled my wrist to scroll, pressing an index finger and thumb together in a pinching motion to select an item. I wanted to send a text message. The device on my sweater, a two-inch square magnetic pin from a start-up called Humane, let out a soft “clink.”

I spoke, and the words leaving my mouth projected instantly into my hand. Squeezing a fist, the message sent with a “whoosh” sound.

The gadget, called the Ai Pin, is a new take on wearable devices that aims to supplant, or at least help wean us off, our addiction to screens. Its features include answering questions, making calls, sending texts, playing music and taking photos. It costs $699 and a $24 monthly subscription, and will be available to pre-order on Nov. 16. The company hopes to ship the devices by early 2024.

It was, like any new technology, equal parts magic and awkward. It took a few seconds of waving my hand in front of my chest to find the laser menu. The circling wrist motion takes a second to nail as well. In ten minutes of wearing the device at the company’s offices, I gradually learned how to hold the light and manipulate it.

Most fun, in my view, was the pinching motion. Pinch: Play a new song. Pinch: Start a new message. Pinch: Back to the menu. The company refers to this motion as “picking,” said Imran Chaudhri, Humane’s co-founder. “Pinching hurts,” he said.

I quickly ran out of things to pinch, because unlike my smartphone, which offers a steady barrage of dopamine in the form of emails, texts, hearts, news alerts, cute dog pics and other notifications, Humane’s Ai Pin is meant to fade into the background of everyday life. I told Ken Kocienda, Humane’s head of product engineering, that the device seemed to get you in and out quickly. It is not begging me to lose another 45 minutes inside TikTok.

“It’s more of a pull than pushing content at you in the way iPhones do,” he said. I dropped my hand, and the light disappeared.

To ask a question, I tapped the pin’s touch screen. To take a photo, I double-tapped. But to actually see the photo, I would need a screen. Humane customers will have access to an online hub with 32 gigabytes of storage.

The device’s “personic speakers” (a portmanteau of personal and sonic) played music via the streaming service Tidal. Early customers…

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