Contact Jesse Liu, CEO and founder of an AI startup rabbitHe says he doesn't want to replace your smartphone. At least not right away. His company's new gadget, a $199 autonomous AI called the R1, is so startlingly ambitious that Liu thinks he can't. Helps But replace your phone at some point. Not quite yet.
The R1 looks a bit like a Playdate console or perhaps a modern version of one of those portable TVs from the 90s. It's a standalone gadget about half the size of an iPhone with a 2.88-inch touchscreen, a rotating camera for taking photos and videos, and a scroll wheel/button you press to navigate or talk to the device's built-in assistant. It houses a 2.3GHz MediaTek processor, 4GB of memory, and 128GB of storage, all inside a rounded chassis designed in collaboration with design firm Teenage Engineering. All Rabbit says about the battery is that it lasts “all day long.”
The software inside the R1 is the real story, though: the Rabbit operating system, called Rabbit OS, and the AI technology underneath. Instead of a big language model similar to ChatGPT, Rabbit says the Rabbit OS is based on a “big business model,” and the best way I can describe it is as a kind of global console for applications. “We wanted to find a solution that was as universal as the big language models,” he says. “How can we find a universal solution to actually get our services running, regardless of whether you're a website, an app, any platform or desktop?”
In spirit, it's a similar idea to Alexa or Google Assistant. Rabbit OS can control your music, order a car for you, buy groceries, send your messages, and more, all from one interface. There's no balancing between apps and logins – just order what you want and let the device deliver it.
Instead of building a bunch of APIs and trying to convince developers to support R1, Rabbit trained its model on how to use existing applications for itself. The Large Action Model, or LAM, is trained by humans interacting with apps like Spotify and Uber, essentially showing the model how it works. LAM learned what the settings icon looks like, how to know when an order has been confirmed, and where to search menus. All of this can be applied to any application, anywhere, Liu says.
The R1 also has a dedicated training mode, which you can use to teach the device how to do something, and it will presumably be able to repeat the action on its own from now on. Liu gives an example: “You'll say, 'Hey, first, go to a program called Photoshop.' open it. Get your photos here. Create a lasso on the watermark and click click click click. “This is how you remove the watermark.” “The Rabbit OS takes 30 seconds to process, says Lyu, and then it can automatically remove all watermarks from now on.
But the real question is how all this is implemented in practice. You'll be able to do a few things on the R1 itself, and there's a web portal called Rabbit Hole through which you can log in to all your various services. But how will your Rabbit see that you're using Photoshop? This, like many of the R1's details, isn't entirely clear yet.
What ChatGPT can be to web search, Rabbit OS can be to the App Store
The rabbit's approach here is very clever. Getting anyone to support a new operating system is difficult, even if you're one of the tech giants, and the LAM method subverts that by only teaching the model how to use applications. More broadly, we're seeing a series of new AI-powered devices emerging on the market, but more often than not, all these tools do is communicate with a chatbot. In contrast, Rabbit is like a super app – a single interface through which you can do almost anything. What ChatGPT can be to web search, Rabbit OS can be to the App Store. There are thousands of complications and caveats to this dream, of course, but it is an interesting dream.
Listening to Lyu talk about Rabbit OS and the R1, it's not entirely clear what the company's vision for this device really is. It's not powerful enough to replace your phone, although it can make video calls and has a SIM card slot. It's primarily a voice assistant, but the device has a screen and a camera. it's not Just A voice assistant…but it does a lot of voice assistant things. Rabbit says it designed Rabbit OS with security and privacy in mind, but it also requires you to sign in to some of your most used services through its interface. The R1, in Leo's view, is a stylish accessory and an all-in-one receiver for almost everything.
R1 is Available for pre-order nowLiu says the device will start shipping in March. He even believes, and perhaps hopes, that it will beat Humane's AI Pin to the market.
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