This new $199 AI gadget is no-subscription pocket companion

The adorable red-colored Rabbit r1 is smaller than a smartphone. It reminds me of the Playdate game console, which was designed by Teenage Engineering. It was not surprising to learn that Teenage Engineering also designed the r1.

What is it? As far as I can tell, it's a portable AI voice assistant with a color touch screen.

According to Rabbit's CEO, the r1 is an improvement over smartphones, which rely on an ecosystem of apps that often don't work together seamlessly, resulting in a less intuitive user experience. In the demo, the r1 responded to queries within a half-second using a push-to-talk feature, which is much faster than other voice AI projects like ChatGPT. For instance, the r1 in the demo quickly provided information on stock prices, actor details in movies, and created music playlists from Spotify.

The r1 uses a "Large Action Model" to interact with various Web applications through its "Rabbit Hole," a web portal similar to iCloud. Pre-authenticated services like Uber and DoorDash enable the r1 to book rides and order food.

The demo included planning a trip to London with the r1, including booking flights, hotels, and cars, providing detailed itineraries, and adjusting schedules to fit users' preferences.

The r1 comes with additional features like a real-time translator, notetaker, and the ability to suggest meal recipes based on what's in your fridge. Its computer vision allows it to perform actions based on visual analysis, such as playing a song or processing tables and documents.

The big question is, do we need to carry around another device, especially since it's a given that Apple and Google are already planning to embed all the functions that r1 offers into their smartphones? My guess is that it'll have a niche user base of about 50,000 people (the same number that bought a Playdate). At just $199 and no subscription fee, I'm tempted to be one of them.