The Rabbit r1 was delivered half-baked, but that’s the point

Finally I received this Rabbit r1 (The company insists on this lowercase notation) which I wrote about since its debut at CES in January. And I could tell within about 30 seconds of turning it on that it shipped a few months early – but honestly… is that okay? It’s strange, relatively cheap and obviously an experiment. In my opinion, this is something we should stand behind and not get involved in.

The real problems with the r1 are obvious: it doesn’t have enough app integrations and it “might just be an app.”

As for the first problem, it is currently entirely true. There are only four things to connect to: Uber, DoorDash, Spotify and Midjourney. Apart from the fact that the number is clearly too small, these are not useful to me. I don’t drive many cars (and often use Lyft); I don’t order much food (DoorDash is a bad company); I don’t use Midjourney (and if I did, I wouldn’t use a voice interface); and I don’t use Spotify (Winamp and Plex if you can believe it). Of course your mileage may vary, but four isn’t much.

As for the question of whether it could be just an app, and for people who don’t think it runs on Android or uses some established APIs – maybe you missed the whole thing, which is that we already have way too many apps and the point is to move many common tasks and services to a simpler, less distraction-intensive device.

Obviously I’m not the target audience for this thing. But I’m still the guy who’s holding one and writing for a major tech publication, so we’re taking this seriously.

Photo credit: Rabbits

The simple truth is that I like the idea of ​​the rabbit r1 and I’m okay with waiting until that idea has some time to mature. Rabbit is trying to create version 1.0 (although it’s currently closer to 0.1) of the general-purpose AI assistant that Google, Apple and Amazon were Fake for the last decade. Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa… they’re all just natural language command lines to a collection of APIs. None of them really know what to do, so they just are support one of the fast horses and hoping to catch up at some point. Rabbit has said their intention was to move quickly and ship something while the industry’s 900-pound gorillas were flailing.

The problem is separating a company’s ambitions from the product you actually pay for. Certainly, Rabbit’s device is nowhere near the condition that CEO Jesse Lyu has shown in various demos and videos. We have good explanations for this, but that doesn’t change the fact that the R1 is delivered in a completely naked state.

I can’t in good conscience advise anyone to buy it now. I mean, it does almost nothing for me. But that didn’t stop 100,000 people from doing this and I don’t think they were deceived in any way. Rabbit has been pretty open about the fact that it will get to market as quickly as possible (which was still pretty quick despite delays), with a minimum viable product, and will add the features discussed later.

In the meantime, you’ve got some popular apps at your disposal, as well as a competent conversational AI (which you’d normally have to pay for) that can look things up for you or identify things in pictures. There are about three settings.

A wealth of possibilities

So it works – for a limited definition of “works”. Sounds like an MVP to me. Is this worth $200 to you? What if they added video calling via WhatsApp? Will it be worth that $200 with the addition of Lyft, Tidal, Audio Transcription, Airbnb, Navigation, and Snake? Next year, how about you can train it using any app? (Assuming the company’s vaunted Large Action Model works.) I’m not being facetious; It really just depends on what you think is worth paying for.

$200 isn’t nothing, but when it comes to consumer electronics – especially in this day and age when iPhones cost more than $1,000 – it’s not exactly a big purchase price either. People pay $200 every day for RAM, for a smart tape measure, and for nice mechanical keyboards. If you told me I could get a Feker 75 Aluminum for $200 right now, I would order two and never regret it! (If you have one, email me!) In the meantime, you’ll never catch me paying full price for a MacBook Pro. Here too, it is up to each of us to decide. (Although you may also be waiting for a security clearance, considering many of your accounts have authorized sessions.)

Personally, I think it’s a fun look at a possible future. My phone is in my pocket, but the R1 is in my pocket, and I can pull it out on a walk and ask, “What types of hawks and eagles live here?” instead of opening the Sibley app and filtering by region. Then I can say, “Add the prairie falcon to the list of birds I saw in Simplenote.” Then I can say, “Call a car to the Golden Gardens parking lot to take me home and use the cheap option,” and that’s what happens. Then I ask them to record and identify the song being played around someone else’s campfire. (Just ask? They don’t do that in Seattle). And so forth.

Sure, I could do it all on my phone. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of holding this thing in my hand, switching between apps, and getting notifications for things that don’t really matter right now.

The rabbit r1 in action. Hand model: Chris Velazco from The Washington Post.

I like the idea of ​​a more focused device. I like that it’s small, safety orange, and has a really bad camera with a complicated panning mechanism for basically no reason (this is exactly why double-sided camera stacks are made).

Companies used to make all sorts of strange things. Remember Google weird Nexus Q music thing? Remember how wild smartphones used to bewith unique keyboards, trackballs, cool materials and strange launchers? Technology is so boring now. People do everything on the same device, and every device is almost exactly the same as everyone else’s.

“What song is that?” Out comes the phone, unlock, swipe, swipe, tap, tap.

“We should see if we can find a cabin out there for Memorial Day weekend.” Phone, swipe, swipe, type, type, scroll, scroll.

“Who were those two guys from the postal service again?” Phone, tap “Dude,” scroll, tap.

Every day, everything, the same handful of actions. It’s useful, but it’s boring. And it’s been that way for years! Where laptops were in 2007, phones and smartphones came onto the market to show us that there is another way. Rabbit is hoping to do the same thing to a lesser extent with the r1, and to be fair, that’s true Humanalthough it kind of sounds like the latter has more fundamental problems.

I like that the R1 exists and that it is both amazingly futuristic and incredibly limited. Technology should be fun and strange sometimes. Efficiency and reliability are overrated. I also want to tell you that the homebrew and hacking community is putting a lot of effort into this. I can’t wait to play Tempest on it or, frankly, scroll down on a social media app or reader. Why not? Technology is what we make of it. Rabbit leans into that, and I think that’s cool.

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