AI Insider No. 30

Hello subscribers! This was a busy week in the AI universe. For starters, the mega tech show CES took place in Las Vegas. Back in the day, I would be there on the showroom floor with a group of journalism students learning to cover tech and gigantic live events. This year, I watched live streams, sorted through tons of press releases in my inbox, kept an eye on the daily coverage, and collaborated with the chatbots to bring you the “team coverage” of CES AI-related news below. Not surprisingly, lots of AI-fueled tech was showcased this year. As always, if you find this content useful, don’t forget to leave something in the tip jar. Thanks!

CES 2024 Showcases AI

By Perplexity, ChatGPT, Bing, Bard, and Michelle Johnson, for AI Insider

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024, one of the world’s largest tech events, just wrapped up in Las Vegas, showcasing the latest technological innovations. As in years past, there was a flurry of dazzling gadgetry: giant televisions, robots, EVs, and foldable phones. But this year, from TVs to toothbrushes, it seems like everyone slapped an “AI-powered” label on their product.

Don’t get your hopes up, tho. It will be a while before most of these products come to an online tech purveyor or superstore near you. And some may never even make it to market. CES is famous for showcasing “vaporware.” Still, it’s fun to get a glimpse of the innovation on display each year, so let’s get to it!

Volkswagen Putting ChatGPT On the Road

Yes, that’s right. ChatGPT in the car. Volkswagen is adding it to their vehicles and demoed it at CES. Why on Earth would you need ChatGPT in the car? This video shows some examples. The driver says, “I’m feeling cold.” The car responds by turning on the heat, but just on the driver’s side. Or you could ask it to tell your fidgety kids a story.

Volkswagen is essentially augmenting its current voice assistant, IDA, to respond more effectively to natural language by adding ChatGPT. It is expected to launch across the company’s line in Europe later this year. No word on when it will show up in the US. But that’s CES for you. “Here’s this cool thing, but you can’t have it yet.” Stay tuned.


Rabbit R1: Hare-brained Idea? Or Genius?

(Full disclosure: I’ve already pre-ordered this gadget. I’ll review it here when it ships in the Spring. — MJ)

By Bing for AI Insider

One of the most talked-about unveilings at CES 2024 was the Rabbit R1, a compact, AI-powered device. Designed to fit in the palm of your hand, the R1 features a unique combination of a touchscreen, a scroll wheel, a rotating camera, and a push-to-talk button. 

The Rabbit R1 runs on the company’s proprietary Rabbit OS, powered by a Large Action Model (LAM) AI, which the company claims delivers faster and more efficient responses than AI models like ChatGPT.

The R1’s camera, known as the “rabbit eye,” can rotate 360 degrees, allowing users to take work video calls or look at the contents in your refrigerator and suggest recipes. 

Rabbit emphasizes user privacy, with options to delete stored data. The R1’s hardware is not always listening, like, for instance, Alexa; it only activates upon pressing the push-to-talk button. 

Priced at $199 with no subscription required, the R1 is expected to ship between March and April 2024​​​​​​. To see how this device works, see this video.

[Ed. Note: The company sold 10,000 of these in 24 hours, wiping out their entire inventory that is scheduled to ship by March. Then they put up a link to another 10,000, which will ship later, and those sold out. Meanwhile, there were snarky comments on the interwebs asking why anyone would possibly want such a thing. Let me take a crack at an answer: It’s affordably priced and something different. Next question.]

The Robo-Nanny You Never Knew You Needed

There are plenty of fancy strollers on the market, but Rosa, an AI-powered baby stroller from Glüxkind Technologies, takes high-end kids’ gear to a new level. Think automatic braking to prevent runaway toddlers, soothing white noise for fussy babies, and built-in games to keep little brains entertained. And it will gently rock the baby for you. Basically, it’s like having Mary Poppins on wheels, minus the singing spoonful of sugar (although, with built-in speakers, who knows what the future holds?). Rosa took a prize in the Robotics category in the CES Innovation Awards. — Bard


Hologram in a Box

By Bard and Bing for AI Insider

Remember those holographic interactions in Star Wars? At CES, Holoconnects, a Dutch company specializing in AI-powered holographic technology, unveiled its Holobox product at CES. So you, too, can now communicate with anyone around the world as if they were standing right in front of you.

CES attendees stopped by Holoconnects’ booth to talk with life-sized holograms of people in real time. It projects 3D images without the need for glasses or fancy headsets. 

The Holobox is more than a hologram in a box. The device could transform various industries, such as hospitality, advertising, education, and healthcare.  It’s available for pre-order now, with a price tag of $9,999. While not exactly budget-friendly for home use, cheaper versions of CES-featured tech are often on the horizon.


AI Grill Cooks a Steak in Seconds

By Bing for AI Insider

The Seergrills Perfecta, a standout at CES 2024, is not your average BBQ grill. Its dual vertical infrared burners provide 360° cooking, eliminating the need to flip food and allowing simultaneous searing of edges and sides. 

The AI-powered grill, equipped with a powerful quad-core processor and a suite of sensors, can cook a 1-inch ribeye steak in just 90 seconds and four chicken breasts in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

The Perfecta’s smart technology extends to its app, which allows users to customize preferences, rate meals, and access recipes from the Seergrills community. However, this high-tech convenience comes at a steep price of $3,500, with a $1,000 discount for pre-orders before January 15. It also requires a 12V electric connection and a propane hookup.

While the Perfecta may not replace the traditional grilling experience for some, it offers a quick and precise alternative for those willing to invest. It’s certainly a hot topic at CES 2024, having garnered an award in the CES Innovation Home Appliances category, and many are eager to see how it performs outside the convention center.  — Bing

Samsung’s Ballie. (Samsung)

Robots Come Home

By Bing for AI Insider

Samsung’s Ballie is a spherical-shaped robot that follows you around your home and assists you with various tasks. It can be used as a remote control for your smart home devices, such as turning on the lights, adjusting the temperature, or starting the vacuum cleaner. 

It can also take photos and videos of special moments, monitor your health and fitness, and even play with your pets.

Ballie is powered by AI and can communicate with you using sounds and lights. It can also sense your mood and emotions and react accordingly. For example, if you are feeling sad, it might play your favorite song or show you a funny video.

Ballie is still in development, but Samsung says it will be affordable when it launches. We shall see.

The AI Agent. (LG)

LG also announced a new AI robot called the AI Agent, which is also designed to be your personal assistant with personality and entertainment hub, too. However, this reviewer from the Verge wasn’t too impressed.

(Bird Buddy)

AI-powered Bird Feeder

Bird Buddy is a bird feeder with a difference — it uses artificial intelligence to identify which species of birds are visiting. Linked to an app, it provides you with a list of choices if it isn’t entirely sure which bird is feasting that day. Bird Buddy can also provide a live video feed using the camera inside the feeder so you can watch for yourself and save clips and images of the visiting avians.

Bird Buddy won a CES Innovation Award for its AI features that can ID birds by their feet. (Yes, really.)

The base model is $239, which is steep for a bird feeder with a smart doorbell inside, and you’d want the solar panel roof for an additional $299 unless you want to charge every week. Bird Buddy has a subscription fee that allows more than one person to view the camera action, but if you skip it, your only cost going forward is birdseed. -— Bing

No More Surprise ‘Gifts’ from Your Cat 

Flappie has motion sensors and AI vision technology to spot when your feline friend tries to bring small animals into the house. The Swiss startup that makes it says the AI-powered cat door isn’t perfect in every instance but can identify whether your pet has prey in its mouth in at least 90 percent of the time.

The Flappie app also lets you monitor your cat’s activity, set schedules for when the flap is open or closed, and even chat with your cat using a built-in speaker and microphone. The Flappie cat flap costs $399 and is available for pre-order now. See a demo here. — Bing

That’s it for our roundup of this year’s consumer tech. Again, this is just a little of what was shown when 135,000+ attendees and 4300+ exhibitors converged in Las Vegas for CES this past week. We didn’t even touch on advances in the medical world, flying cars, a transparent TV, or smart refrigerators. You can catch up on those here and here.


Blackberry Redux?

By Michelle Johnson for AI Insider

Physical keyboards on phones went the way of dinosaurs years ago. If you’re old enough to remember the Blackberry or similarly designed units, you may still be pining for the click of a keyboard on your phone. Well, it’s back via Clicks, “the first creator keyboard for iPhone,’ as described in company verbiage.

Translation: It’s good for content creators who are constantly generating things like social media posts. However, it’s also good for anyone who wants to free up space on their screen (No virtual keyboard popping up!) and those who miss the satisfying click of buttons.

Clicks is basically a phone case with a QUERTY keyboard tacked on at the bottom. There’s a hole for your charging cable to fit through (Lighting or USB). And get this: The keys are backlit, so the jackasses who text in the movie theater can still go to town. 

The keyboard layout mimics its virtual cousin, so there is no steep learning curve. You can also use shortcuts to do things like call up the home screen fast.

According to one of the device’s founders (and a longtime gadget reviewer), Michael Fisher, aka “Mr. Mobile, folks who designed Blackberries were involved in developing Clicks. Watch his video to hear why they think it’s a good idea to revisit this form factor.

I agree. Having used physical keyboards on mobile devices years ago, I think we may have given up some good things and “thrown out the buttons with the bathwater,” as Fisher quips in the video.

The buttons in various colored cases are available now for iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro & Pro Max, with versions for other phones coming, according to the company.

In Non-CES  News….

Featured GPTs in the GPT “Store” (Screenshot/Michelle Johnson)

OpenAI Launches ChatGPT Store and Teams

OpenAI launched its ChatGPT store, making custom GPTs available to paid users. What’s a GPT?

GPTs are kind of like apps, but they are actually customized versions of ChatGPT. For example, a GPT travel bot can be specialized to help you plan your travel. I created one that will create an itinerary of locations to visit that are of interest to African American travelers. You chat with it about your plans, tell it where you are traveling, and ask it questions specifically about your interests.

The GPTs that I have made are now available in the GPT store for free, for now. OpenAI says they will announce some sort of compensation at some point, but it won’t be like in an app store. The company will likely share some revenue with the most popular GPTs. The rest of us won’t be getting paid.

What’s in the GPT store? Well, you name it. 

I recently took a spin through, and it’s a stretch to call this a “store” since we’re not paying for anything at the moment beyond a $20 monthly fee for a pro account. It’s also not separate from ChatGPT. It’s a link in the left-hand navigation. That said, it’s a great deal because you’re getting access to many (but not all unless the creators have made them public) of the more than three million GPTs that have been created. 

There are GPTs focused on OpenAI’s image generator Dall-E 3 that will help you design a logo or make art. There are GPTs that will suggest movies and TV to watch, what to cook, and, yes, people are apparently trying to replicate the movie “Her” by creating “girlfriend” GPTs that will talk to you when no one else will.

Oh, and when they opened the GPT store, OpenAI also announced a new subscription level called ChatGPT Team for folks who need to use ChatGPT collaboratively. Details here.

Ode to Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO

Get rich in tech.
Create a startup and change the world.
Get fired.
Get rehired.
Get hitched.
Mazel Tov!

OK, seriously, tho. Congrats to Sam Altman on the nuptials. After the tumult at OpenAI, I’m sure this was a welcome diversion. PS: When this showed up on the hellscape formerly known as Twitter, some folks thought it was an AI-generated fake. OpenAI’s Dall-E 3, perhaps? Michelle Johnson

Aht Gallery

In the wake of CES showcasing everything from concept cars to future personal tech, the image-generating bots (Midjourney, Dall-E 3, Firefly, DreamStudio, and Ideogram) were asked to envision life in 2050.

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