Tech has always been influenced by art and creative pursuits, and artists have been playing with the idea of immersive, omniscient and innovative AI and computer technology for eons. While the six-day TED 2023 event in Vancouver ran the gamut—with the foremost leaders in AI, technology, art and science noting everything from the potential for destruction to the propensity for good that the fast-spreading AI systems have, former Apple designer Imran Chaudhri noted during his TED talk on Thursday that “in the future, AI technology will be both ambient and contextual,” and he showed off a possible future device that could change the way we interact with AI and the world.
Chaudhri, who created interaction designs for products as iconic as the iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and AirPods, is currently heading up a secretive AI startup called Humane, which recently raised another $100M in funding in March to build a pocket-sized personal AI device that he showed off on stage at TED. The company has raised more than $230 million from previous rounds of funding, according to TechCrunch.
The device sat in Chaudhri’s shirt pocket with what looked like a small cell-phone-style camera sticking out above the fabric. Whether the presentation was done in real time or not was unclear, but Chaudhri demonstrated taking a call from his wife and Humane co-founder, Bethany Bongiorno (also a former Director of Software Engineering at Apple), by pressing on an interface that was laser projected onto the palm of his hand.
He also used a translation feature that turned an English sentence he spoke into French using his voice, cadence and tone. He asked the personal assistant feature to read out a synopsis of the last few emails and calendar invites that he said he received, and used the devices’ camera to check the ingredients of a candy bar he said he’d just picked up to determine if it was safe for him to eat. Chaudhri has an intolerance for coco butter, and the AI recommended that he choose to skip it, but did not scold him when he told the system he was going to eat it anyway.
We spent thousands of hours reimagining and redesigning new types of compute interactions ranging from complex voice commands to intricate hand gestures, all in service of trying to find more natural ways to interact with compute
“We spent thousands of hours reimagining and redesigning new types of compute interactions ranging from complex voice commands to intricate hand gestures, all in service of trying to find more natural ways to interact with compute,” he said during his talk. “Why fumble for your phone, when you can just hold an object and ask questions about it. The result almost feels like the entire world becomes your operating system.”
He continued by highlighting how the AI in his pocket could “open up entirely new possible ways of how you interact with technology and how you interact with the world around you.” With the goal of making a personal and secure AI device that is “more humane and intuitive, with interactions that are seamless, screenless and sensing. This is so much more than devices just getting smaller or more powerful. This is the possibility of reimagining the human technology relationship as we know it,” Chaudhri said on stage.
Chaudhri didn’t reveal much more about the device during his talk, but promised more in the months ahead. If his track record at Apple is any indication, we may have had a glimpse of what a more “humane” personal AI device might look like in the very near future.
Hero image TED2023: Possibility. April 17-21, 2023, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Gilberto Tadday / TED