AI-Driven Gadgets Could be the Future

AI-Driven Gadgets Could be the Future

By Raj Chandra Shekhar

The aggressive hiring by the newly set up Microsoft AI has raised eyebrows and led to the European Antitrust body to acknowledge that they bypass regulatory scrutiny. Since most other regulators tend to follow the EU on this front, it looks as though 2024 could herald the AI-driven gadgets revolution, given the number of launches planned this year. 

From what we know, there are several such gadgets ready to arrive in 2024 including Rabbit’s RI, Brilliant Labs’ smart glasses and the voice-controlled Pin from Humane to name just a few. Some of them, like the R1, assume that users would fork out $200 to keep their phones in the bag while ordering a cab to their current location. 

Circumnavigating regulatory moves

AI-led hardware might not attract as much antitrust attention as the software industry where the Big Tech companies are battling hard to gain early advantage, which in our view is already with Microsoft, given its $10 billion investment in OpenAI. The outcome is out there in the form of the AI-enabled Copilot on the Microsoft 365 suite. 

The EU’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said no action was contemplated now, but there was a possibility of regulatory interventions in case patterns similar to Microsoft’s recent move emerged. In fact, the official was more concerned about the potential replication of this hiring strategy by other companies. 

 “Of course if things become a trend and if that trend seems to be something that circumvents what has been put in place to preserve competition, which is merger rules, of course that could be restored and eventually corrected,” Vestager said. noting that the talent requirement in the AI sector could post challenges for regulators worldwide. 

Gadgets aren’t AI-enabled, they’re AI

It is in this backdrop that the spurt in AI-led hardware business is coming through. Most of the gadgets we mentioned earlier and the dozens that are on the anvil have put AI as the engine of driving user experience. The gadget itself just responds to the human touch, sound or visual cues whereas the LLMs beneath figure out how best to deliver. 

So, tapping the AI Pin to play some music or take a picture or asking rabbit R1 about something automatically fires up the backend AI model that runs through mounds of data and throws up the result. So, in some ways, this is actual AI at work at product level, not just as an app or a feature that enhances a user’s experience. 

But, there are challenges galore

Having set the pace, we do  not imagine that these products would be able to nail down the user experience to the T and make existing hardware redundant. More likely, there could be a batch of fresh ideas built around fresh use cases of interacting with technology and getting it to perform hitherto unheard of tasks. 

Earlier we had asked why would a smartphone user need rabbit R1 as an extra device. Which is true as already Google’s Gemini is taking over the Android experience and before long Apple may surprise us with its own AI suite this year. The question to ask is what can AI-led hardware do that smartphones cannot. 

For starters, one has to physically handle the smartphone, which means take it out, look at it, unlock it and then open the app. Can the next round of AI-driven hardware help us do away with all of this? Especially in the way of the overcrowded app stores that both Google and Apple are contending with and making money out of. 

The need is to imagine fresh use-cases for AI Gadgets

Imagine a personalized gadget with customized AI that can respond automatically once the users declare their intentions and deliver the outcomes. Potentially without smartphones in your pocket and without apps within the smartphone. What’s more, this could signal the end of Google and Apple’s hegemony over the smartphone business. 

Till date, most of the hardware exercise has revolved around how to make the smartphone that all-pervasive device for users. Hence we had AR, VR, metaverse and a bunch of other hyperbolic innovations. Today, when smaller companies are seeking to build AI-led hardware, these monoliths are seeking to cram AI into their smartphones. 

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean that the revolution has started rolling. What we see now, can at best be described as a gentle start as companies seek to first add reliability to AI in general. As this challenge reduces, imagine being able to watch a show on Netflix, listen to music on Spotify and connect with Audible – all without having to fire up these apps! 

Maybe, all of this sounds Utopian today, but then so did the smartphone till it came into our lives somewhere in 2007. The answer could also be a hybrid model where better apps work alongside smarter gadgets to deliver enhanced experiences. For now, we can only want and watch as startups seek to bust the antitrust and with it also the big tech’s monopoly on AI. 


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