No, 2024 is not the year of the AI gadget

Start-up Rabbit’s R1 sold out its initial run of 10 000 devices

Generative AI fever was expected to sweep through tech land and dominate CES, the year’s premiere consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas this week. Expect to wait another year, industry observers said.

One company aimed to use AI to disrupt the red-hot meat-grilling industry. Another aspired to play with your pet. A prototype boxing glove that uses machine learning to turn people into better fighters also made its debut. Few of these gadgets captured the wild energy that generative AI did in the 2023 hype cycle.

Just a year after ChatGPT’s launch in 2022, companies did not have enough time to translate the excitement of large language models into gadget form.

“We’re still trying to get it all to work,” said Jay Goldberg, CEO of D2D Advisory. “You need the silicon and the software, and it’s only been a year since ChatGPT launched — people are still getting on board.”

The lacklustre showing was an inauspicious beginning to a year when investors are expected to look for signs of financial returns from the billions of dollars of investments committed to the heavily hyped generative AI sector.

But profits are not assured, especially in the nascent device sector. On the first day of the trade show, AI gadget start-up Humane announced it laid off 10 employees, ahead of the March launch date of its US$699 AI-powered gadget intended to replace the smartphone, citing the need to restructure.


One sector that leaned into the frenzy was the motoring industry. Volkswagen presented vehicles with a voice assistant that integrates ChatGPT’s technology, that is supposed to let drivers listen to research content on the road. But ChatGPT has a propensity to “hallucinate” erroneous information, and was why Mercedes-Benz launched a virtual assistant that checks some of its answers against data from Google in order to be more accurate.

Read: Generative AI’s wild 2023 – and what comes next

China-based Mojie demonstrated augmented reality glasses made with plastic lenses that connect to a smartphone. The glasses included an option that lets the user push a button on the frames to activate ChatGPT and display responses to queries in their field of view.

AI start-up Rabbit launched a standalone gadget called the R1 that is similar to the voice assists produced by and Google. The device uses what the company describes as a “large action model” to control apps. It sold 10 000 units in a day.

Next year’s CES is likely to contain many more gadgets and products that include forms of generative AI after companies have enough time to develop the appropriate hardware and software, according to Accenture analyst Syed Alam.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see handheld devices that are doing generative AI, and maybe even offline,” Alam said.  — Max A Cherney, (c) 2024 Reuters

Get breaking news alerts from TechCentral on WhatsApp