Down the A.I. Rabbit Hole

The anti-app device that should have been an app

Stephen Moore


Rabbit’s r1 device

In my predictions post, I surmised that A.I. would have a big year in 2024. I know, groundbreaking stuff; thanks for the standing ovation. You can sit down now.

One area that I expected to blow up was A.I. devices or, more specifically, pointless A.I. devices. I wrote,

“We’ve already had a neckless and a pin. A.I. stuffing is set to continue and will continue so long as A.I. remains the buzzword of the moment and gets investors wet in the pants. Much like the rush to make devices’ smart’ or the buzz of IoT devices, the next wave is incoming, with A.I. set to be the new tech frontier for 2024.”

Well, no sooner than those words had been sent out into the ether did I stumble upon the launch of Rabbit’s r1 device.

The release video was exactly as you’d expect a modern showcase to be — it was like Apple, just not. You know the drill: founder wearing black, minimal backdrop, fancy visuals of the product with moody black shadows, and, of course, lots of hand gestures. In one departure from the Apple playbook, they did include a cringeworthy Rickroll.

I’ll be fair and start with some positives — it’s nice to see hardware devices making a bit of a comeback (less cool that they all have to be A.I.-stuffed). As a Product Designer by degree, devices like this are reminiscent of the things we would dream up in lectures. It makes me feel a little nostalgic, which is cool. I like the scroll button. I like that it’s tactile. It’s somewhat cheap. It doesn’t need a subscription. I also like the color. Okay, I’m getting a little desperate now. They also sold out the first four batches, so kudos to them. I hope they can now fulfill those orders, and we don’t end up with some Kickstarter rug pull scenario. With what we’ve seen over the last few years with crypto and NFTs, it’s not out of the question.

Unfortunately, that’s where my enthusiasm ends.

The r1 is pitched as an alternative to the app ecosystem. As Rabbit’s founder and CEO, Jesse Lyu, says in the keynote, “the smartphone has become the best device to kill time, not save time.” He blames this on the overwhelming number of apps, which cause us to spend time searching and swapping…