A $199 AI toy that fails at almost everything

Along with the boring 2.9-inch screen, there’s a unique 8-megapixel “360-eye” camera that can pan towards or away from you. This is an interesting way to avoid stacking two separate cameras, so I’ll give Rabbit credit for this one. But 360-eye isn’t designed for photography: Instead, it’s all about computer vision. You can ask R1 to describe what’s in front of you, from objects to documents and articles, and wait for an AI-generated summary. While this is something that can be useful for people with visual impairments, those users can do the same with ChatGPT, Microsoft copilot or tools built into their phones (which also have far superior cameras).

Aside from its looks, the Rabbit R1 is basically a failure. Once turned on, you should be able to push the talk button on its side and ask the AI ​​assistant what you want: the weather, local traffic, or a summary of the latest book. Although in my tests, the R1 often delivered the air when I requested traffic, and sometimes it heard my request and just did nothing.

The R1 gets more frustrating the more you use it: Its scroll wheel is the only way to interact with its interface (although the display is also a touchscreen), and it’s just plain awkward to use. There’s no rhyme or reason to how long you have to scroll through the menu options. Since the confirmation button is on the right side of R1, just selecting items is a pain. It would be easier to slap that button somewhere below the scroll wheel – or better yet, let me use the damn touchscreen!

Rabbit R1 keyboardRabbit R1 keyboard

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Amazingly, the Rabbit’s touchscreen recognizes taps when you need to enter text, such as a Wi-Fi network password. But even that process is annoying because it involves turning the R1 sideways and typing on a funny little keyboard. To be honest, every time I had to use it, I felt like I was being ripped off. (Mandatory note: “What is this, a keyboard ants?”)

The more I used the Rabbit R1, the more I felt like it was purposely designed to drive me crazy. It can play music from Spotify (if you have a paid subscription), but what’s the point of doing that with its terrible 2-watt speaker? Are you expected to connect Bluetooth headphones? You can ask R1 to create art through the Midjourney AI (again with a paid account), but it often failed to show me the created images. They rarely appeared, in fact I could not do Everything with AI images from R1. I need to download Midjourney’s Discord server to my phone or computer to share around.

Rabbit R1Rabbit R1

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When I asked R1 to find me an Uber to a local theater, he told me that the Uber service can load slowly on RabbitOS and isn’t available everywhere (uh, thanks?). After 30 seconds of idle time, it said that there might be a maintenance issue with the Uber service or there might be a problem with my credentials. (I logged out of Uber on the “Rabbit Hole” site you use to drive the R1 and logged back into Uber, but the error persisted.)

“LAM works on your behalf by managing the Uber web app in the cloud,” Rabbit representative Ryan Fenwick told me via email when I asked why I couldn’t get the Uber service to work. “Uber ultimately decides what and how to serve users, so it depends on where you’ve booked, your travel history, etc. This may change from time to time depending on factors such as We are taking measures to help improve the success rate and transparency of booking travel through R1, so the experience should improve over time.”

At least Rabbit R1 was able to buy me a sandwich. I asked him to find some lunch nearby, and he spent an entire minute interacting with Postmates and its AI cloud—the exact time it took me to complete a GrubHub order on my phone. R1 eventually returned with three chaotic options: Subway, nearby Henri’s Bakery, and a restaurant I’d never heard of.

Rabbit R1Rabbit R1

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I opted for Henry’s (they make killer sandwiches) and R1 showed me a huge selection of six menus. Its tiny screen could only hold the item’s image, name, and price—you couldn’t touch it to get a longer description or customize anything. You can only add or remove items to your cart. I selected two sandwiches and to my surprise, R1 completed the order without confirming my payment information or delivery address. It worked completely off of my DoorDash defaults, and thankfully those were current.

As soon as the order was placed, my iPhone started lighting up with all kinds of useful information from DoorDash. I got a confirmation from the restaurant, looked over the bill (R1 probably added my 20% tip), and got the delivery driver’s name. R1 took a few minutes before confirming the order, and he only occasionally let me know he was approaching me.

In the end, my sandwiches arrived, but I was more amazed by the many ways things could have gone wrong. This is not 1999; I’m not impressed by being able to just order food online like I already do Kozmo.com (RIP). But even then, I was able to fully explore the menus and customize things. Being able to look at my phone and see that the DoorDash app was more useful made me immediately lose faith in the R1.

There are other things R1 can do, such as recording and summarizing meetings. But that’s something few apps can do on my phone and computer. The on-demand translate function worked well for converting English to Spanish and Japanese, but it’s no better than Google Translate or ChatGPT on my phone.

Rabbit R1Rabbit R1

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

All of which leads me to ask: What exactly is the purpose of the Rabbit R1? it certainly can’t replace your phone because it can’t make calls or send texts. Although you can always add a SIM card to make it work, this makes it more expensive. In any case, it will still be useless on the road. You might argue, it’s a companion device that helps you avoid the distraction of your phone. But it’s so slow and difficult to use that I find the notification hellscape of my smartphone more soothing. There’s nothing zen about having another device you have to buy, charge, and carry around.

If you’re worried about battery life, you should definitely stay away from the Rabbit R1. When I first received it, the R1 was burning its battery while sitting idle absolutely nothing, eight hours. The first major RabbitOS update helped significantly, but the R1 still can’t last all day on a single charge. For a device with such a small screen and offloading its work to the cloud, this is simply inexcusable.

Rabbit R1Rabbit R1

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I suppose you could argue that the $199 Rabbit R1 is a good deal compared to the $699 Humane AI Pin (which also requires a $24 monthly subscription), but that’s like saying rabbit poop doesn’t smell bad compared to dog poop it’s a thing. Technically true! But in the end, it’s still shit. Humane’s projection screen is at least an interesting twist on the mobile UI, and potentially less cumbersome as a wearable. On the other hand, the Rabbit AI assistant is basically just a sleeker and dumber phone.

Don’t buy R1. Even if Rabbit somehow managed to fulfill some of the promise of LAM – the ability to train R1 to handle various tasks – I don’t believe it would actually work well. My advice goes to every standalone AI gadget: Just stay away. Your phone is enough.

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