Humane Inc., a tech startup founded in 2018 by ex-Apple executives Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri, just raised $100 million in its latest funding round, bringing the total of money raised to a whopping $230 million.
Which is good for them! But there's, uh, one thing: we cannot, for the life of us, figure out what these people are actually selling — and why the mystery product is groundbreaking enough for both Microsoft and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman to invest in it.
Other than the fact, of course, that — you guessed it! — AI is definitely involved, a sign that there's an exorbitant amount of interest in the space, even if a company's product amounts to nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
"Our first device will enable people to bring AI with them everywhere," Chaudhri, formerly a designer at Apple, said in a press release. "It's an exciting time, and we’ve been focused on how to build the platform and device that can fully harness the true power and potential of this technology."
"We are at the beginning of the next era of compute," he added, "and believe that together we can begin the journey to fundamentally reshape the role of technology in people's lives."
In true ex-Appler fashion, Humane's website provides few clues as to what it might have been up to for the past five years. Their homepage claims that it's "Building the First AI Hardware and Services Platform," and the word "cloud" crops up more than once.
But, like Chaudri's statement above, nothing on the website indicates the company has anything in terms of an actual product, or at least right now.
"We believe in building innovative technology that feels familiar, natural, and human," reads the company's mission statement, adding that they aim to create technology "that improves the human experience and is born from good intentions" — which arguably doesn't mean much of anything.
There are a few slightly-more concrete clues, most notably in the form of published patents. "Air and touch gestures can also be performed on a projected ephemeral display," reads one such patent, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, "for example, responding to user interface element."
But patents are, well, just patents, and often have only a tenuous connection with the real world.
The Verge also noted this week that a leaked investor pitch deck from 2021 suggests that Humane's product is some kind of wearable camera that "captures moments you didn't think to capture." But The Verge hasn't been able to independently verify that the "leaked" deck is legitimate, so definitely take that with a grain of salt.
So, to recap: whatever it is, it might be a wearable, and you can maybe wave at it and touch it. Also, AI is also somehow involved, and both Microsoft and OpenAI are happy to be a part of it.
"Humane has partnered with Microsoft to bring its services platform to market," reads the press release, adding that "collaboration with OpenAI will integrate its technology into the Humane device and deliver OpenAI and Humane AI experiences at scale to consumers."
To be fair, a lot of tech companies screw themselves over by publicly hyping up products that can't actually be brought to market, so we don't necessarily blame Humane for wanting to keep its device, which the WSJ says should be out this spring, under wraps.
Still, after "five years of nothing," as Apple Insider very eloquently put it, Humane's buzzword-happy — but as of yet substance-less — run-up to their initial product launch sits pretty precariously on the line between secrecy and smoke.
One thing's for sure, though: the AI gold is still rushing.
READ MORE: Startup by Ex-Apple Executives Raises $100 Million, Partners With OpenAI, Microsoft [The Wall Street Journal]
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