My honest experience with the rabbit r1 handheld AI device

I want to love it

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Many personal AI devices have been announced over the past 6 months.

From pins you put on your chest, to glasses that can talk to you, and pendants you wear around your neck that listen to everything you and those around you say.

And then there is the Rabbit r1, the little orange hand held device that looks like a Pokedex, and for only $199. Over 50,000 preorders after a very splashy announcement.

The promise? ChatGPT in the palm of your hands. A single serving device that you can talk to about anything. Push a button, talk to AI. Push a button twice, show AI your world.

I was one of the 50,000 preorders. Why? Because I love AI, I want to try new ways of leveraging it. I’m ok being an early adopter. It opens up the world to me. I have learned new skills from talking to AI. And not casual skills either. I was only ok at programming but now, after spending so much time pair programming with ChatGPT (and before that OpenAI playground), I could probably get a job as an actual software engineer.

And I didn’t think the r1 would replace ChatGPT for me. That’s what I use when I am on my computer. I thought the r1 could be my ChatGPT when I was out of the house. Ask for a recipe while I’m shopping, see if a specific plant would look good in my yard, get a quick answer to a fact my wife and I are debating, help me take notes on the go when inspiration suddenly hits while I’m driving.

But after receiving my r1 this week I am underwhelmed. I wanted to love it so badly, but like the famous YouTube reviewer MKBHD said, the r1 is “Barely Reviewable”.

And to be clear, I also bought the Apple Vision Pro. I don’t use it regularly, but my god is it amazing. A work of art, from the hardware to the software. It’s magic. It’s too heavy to have on your head and your eyes hurt after a while, but it is undeniably magic.

That is not the case with the r1.

When I opened it I was impressed with the packaging and the design. It felt cool. Good so far.

Not my photo, but this is what it looks like

I was excited to try it out after opening it, but this is where the trouble began.

  • I couldn’t get it to connect to my wifi.

  • The UI was difficult to navigate while I tried to trouble shoot the wifi connection.

  • After finally connecting to wifi it started to do an auto update and then promptly lost connection to wifi.

  • After finally getting it to work (me standing in a specific spot in the house where for some reason the r1 would pick up wifi), I was at a loss for what to actually ask it. I have lots of work related questions to ask ChatGPT, but what do I ask r1?

  • To ask a question you hold the one button on the side and talk (like a walkie talkie). To open the camera you double tap the button. When the camera is open you can hold the button to talk to the AI about what it sees. I like the idea of the UI. You use a physical wheel to scroll through menus. It is sickeningly slow, and often you are not sure if it registered that it was moved at all. It drives you mad.

  • When I did ask something it gives a very basic answer and shows no history of the answer on the screen. If you didn’t hear it the first time, there is no way to review it again unless you login to your computer.

  • I connected it to my Spotify account and asked it to play a song for deep focus. A song started playing on the r1. The volume was low and the speakers were bad. “Why would I listen to music on a device I have to hold in my hand?” I wonder. “When would I do this?”.

  • I tell r1 to turn the music off. It says it can’t. I tell it to turn it off again. It says it has. It hasn’t. I push the button to see if that would turn it off. It doesn’t. It tell it to turn the music off. It says it has found a new song to play. It hasn’t. After pushing buttons for a while I finally get the song to stop.

  • I turn the camera on and point it to the big tree in the backyard, I say “What is this?”. It says “It’s a tree”. Ok.

  • It disconnects from wifi again. I finally get it connected back.

  • Finally after its working again I hold the button to ask a question. The battery dies.

  • I charge the r1 to 100% battery before going to bed. This way I can start fresh in the morning, maybe I can explore use cases for it then.

  • In the morning after I grab my coffee I grab the r1. Time to think positive and look past it’s issues. I’m going to come up with useful ways to integrate this into my life.

  • I push the button on the r1 to turn it on. Battery is at 1%. It dies.

  • I don’t even want to pick up the r1 again. I want to love it. I want to even use it. But, it’s barely reviewable.

I love AI. I use AI every day. AI has made me smarter and more efficient, it has made my business smarter and more efficient, and it has made my friends, family, and colleagues smarter and more efficient.

I am super bullish on AI, I’m even super bullish on AI wearables and personal devices. I even still want to be bullish specifically for Rabbit and their r1.

I am rooting for them. Truly. Get the AI out of the laptop and phone, let’s get it into more places in the world.

But I can’t hide the fact that this experience was a complete disappointment. The technology might be amazing, but I can’t even get it to consistently connect to wifi or maintain a battery charge.

I would love to change my mind after they address the many issues this first version has.

My r1 refusing to work

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