At CES 2024 this week, Swedish consumer electronics company Rabbit unveiled the R1, the world’s first handheld AI companion device powered by AI provider Perplexity. Billed as a “pocket-sized personal assistant”, the R1 aims to redefine the digital experience by using Perplexity’s advanced natural language AI to have conversational interactions, provide relevant personalized information, and even operate apps and services on the user’s behalf.
R1’s Capabilities Showcased to Great Fanfare at CES
During Rabbit’s keynote presentation at CES, the company demonstrated the R1 seamlessly answering questions on a wide range of topics posed by Rabbit CEO Hakan Lidbo. The R1 was able to rapidly retrieve up-to-date information on news events, sports scores, financial data, and more by leveraging Perplexity’s proprietary AI algorithms including GPT-4.
In perhaps the most impressive showcase of its capabilities, Lidbo asked the R1 to book a restaurant reservation in Las Vegas later that evening. The R1 had anatural back-and-forth conversation with Lidbo to understand the booking parameters, then interfaced directly via API with the OpenTable app to autonomously make the reservation under Lidbo’s name.
This kind of app integration and automation is made possible by Perplexity’s AI engine which can understand user intents and operate apps and services contextually on their behalf.
Strong Partnership with Perplexity AI Key to R1 Innovation
Rabbit’s partnership with AI startup Perplexity has been crucial to developing the R1’s standout capabilities. Founded just 3 years ago in 2021, Perplexity has quickly become a leader in conversational AI by leveraging powerful neural networks and reinforcement learning algorithms.
At CES, Perplexity CEO Allison Chan spoke about the collaboration: “We are thrilled to power the Rabbit R1 with our advanced natural language understanding and our new AI capabilities like app reasoning and automation. The R1 represents a completely new paradigm for human-computer interaction.”
|R1 Key Specs
|Weight: 150 grams
|Dimensions: 10 x 5 x 1.5 cm
|Battery Life: upto 18 hours
|Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G/5G
|Display: 5″ 1080p Touchscreen
|Cameras: 13MP Front, 16MP Back
|Charging: USB-C, Wireless
|Materials: Titanium, Gorilla Glass
|Voice Assistant: Perplexity AI
|App Integration: 3000+ via Perplexity
Notably, Perplexity’s AI will be continuously updated via over-the-air updates to the R1. This means the device will get smarter and more capable over time, especially as Perplexity releases major AI upgrades like GPT-5 which is rumored for next year.
R1 Positioned as Smartphone Companion and Potential Replacement
While the R1 is packed with advanced hardware and runs a mobile OS, Rabbit is positioning it first and foremost as an AI-powered smart companion rather than a smartphone replacement. However, many industry commentators see the potential for the R1 to ultimately supersede smartphones given its AI capabilities.
Rabbit CEO Lidbo commented on this aspect: “The R1 is designed for a future where AI assistance augments human abilities. By offloading tedious tasks like searching, bookings, research, and more to our Perplexity assistant, the R1 gives you back time while still keeping you connected.”
As capabilities improve over time, the R1 may be able to take over most smartphone functions, while offering far greater convenience via hands-free operation. Its voice assistant already outperforms offerings from Apple, Google and others according to early reviews.
High Demand Crashes Online Sales Channels
Despite its $799 price tag, the Rabbit R1 has seen enormous demand following the launch event. Rabbit’s website struggled under the traffic load with shoppers reporting site crashes and order failures.
Within the first 5 hours, Rabbit disclosed that over 10,000 units of the R1 had been purchased in North America alone. Pre-order wait times have now extended to 3 months for new buyers. Scalpers have already posted listings on eBay for over $2000 per device.
What Does the Future Hold for R1 and AI Companions?
The runaway early success of the R1 provides validation of Rabbit’s vision around AI augmentation and demonstrates strong consumer appetite for the concept. And this is only the beginning according to analysts – the capabilities showcased already arguably exceed what many predicted possible by 2024 for conversation AI.
We can expect Perplexity to rapidly enhance abilities like app reasoning and task automation to further leverage the R1’s accessibility advantages over other devices. And competitive products will surely follow from giants like Apple and Google.
Ultimately over the next decade, AI companions like the R1 have the potential to completely restructure the digital experience around context, convenience and hands-free interaction. But for now, Rabbit seems to have beaten everyone else out the gate, with what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls “the most impressive AI technology demo since the unveiling of the iPhone back in 2007”.
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