The Humane AI Pin ...


And those were some of the more “gentle” recent headlines.

Let’s set the stage. Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri saw an opportunity to rethink mobile computing, so they founded a company called Humane. They invented a lapel pin that would essentially become your AI-infused digital assistant. This vision and the founder’s Apple pedigree landed $100M in Series C funding last year. Clearly, they saw Apple as their North Star.

Now, a drill down into recent events.

It’s easy enough to figure out the PR strategy. Line up a slew of product reviews under NDA with heavyweight publications timed so the fireworks detonate — unfortunately, that verb ends up being a double entendre — on April 11. And that’s exactly what happened.

Not good.

It didn’t have to play out this way.

What happened to the concept of beta users? If they had implemented a beta program, the same issues that tanked the product reviews would have surfaced. I appreciate the pressure on startups to bring their product to market as soon as possible to generate revenue, but skipping the beta program is akin to driving blindfolded. Or maybe they implemented a beta program and simply ignored the feedback. Regardless, you can draw a direct line from here to the reviews that crushed the product.

At the risk of throwing my PR brethren under the bus, the communications function should have delivered another guardrail to prevent the disaster. Even if there were only three individuals reaching out to journalists, one would have thought that they tested the product and experienced the flaws firsthand. Look, it’s never easy telling the emperor and empress that their attire is sparse, but it should have been done. It’s also possible that PR did share their concerns and were dismissed. I wasn’t in the room.

Back the headline, this train wreck could have been avoided.

The Verge subhead nicely captures what Humane is now up against —
“This wearable computer promises to free you from your smartphone. There’s only one problem: it just doesn’t work.”

Not a huge market for stuff that doesn’t work (remember Google Glass).

According to the latest reports, Humane has engaged an investment banker to sell the company.

That’s the right move. A new home (brand) will give the technology a second chance.

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