Start-Up Rabbit Grabs Attention With Handheld AI Gadget

A handheld AI assistant developed by start-up Rabbit has captured users’ imaginations, with the small California-based company selling out of multiple pre-order rounds of the device since its launch earlier this month.

Rabbit launched the R1 device at an event in Las Vegas the same week as the CES trade show, where AI was a major focus, although Rabbit didn’t exhibit at the event.

The firm said late last week it has sold out of the first five rounds of pre-orders of the R1, at $199 (£156) each, for a total of 50,000, and was starting a sixth batch totalling an additional 50,000.

The device stood out amongst the cloud of AI offerings at CES for its affordability and engaging design.

Image credit: Rabbit

Pocket-sized AI assistant

The R1 allows users to interact with services of their choice, such as music-playing apps, ride-hailing services or image- or text-based generative AI, via a 2.88-inch touchscreen or a push-to-talk button.

The device fits into a pocket, doesn’t require a link to another device and can carry out tasks such as web searches, playing music from Spotify or hailing a cab.

The R1’s operating system uses AI – what Rabbit calls a “large action model” – to analyse how users interact with those services and make it easier to perform similar tasks automatically.

The company said it uses Perplexity AI to answer users’ queries and said the first 100,000 buyers would get a year’s subscription to Perplexity for free.

Engaging design

The unit, created with design firm Teenage Engineering to resemble a 1990s game handheld, also includes a camera, a speaker and two microphones.

Rabbit said it expects deliveries of the sixth batch of pre-orders by June to July 2024.

As of December Rabbit has raised $36 million from US, Canadian and South Korean investors, according to PitchBook data.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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