This Rabbit R1 AI Smartwatch would have been a smash success at CES 2024…

Smartphone technology has come a long way and most of us would consider there is no going back from the endless convenience of next-gen phones that keep dropping every other week. This notion may be on the verge of change, with a pocket-friendly Rabbit that paced through the hearts of CES attendees this year. Dubbed the R1, a walkie-talkie-like device created by a startup called Rabbit in collaboration with Teenage Engineering and it is an AI-assisted smartphone alternative.

This retro-styled personal assistant with a screen, camera, and a scroll wheel is half the size of an iPhone 15 and presents a simpler and less distractive way to interact with technology. How the R1 really functions is a story untold, but its nostalgic simplicity has had over 10,000 customers and a designer floored. The designer has added wearable convenience to the Rabbit making it a compact AI watch.

Designer: Alisher Ashimov

The first visible motive for turning the palm-sized personal voice assistant into a wearable is to eliminate the need for an extra device to carry in the pocket, whatever the size might be. Aptly named Rabbit R1 AI Watch, it will enhance portability without compromising the uniqueness of the original design.

To that accord, the designer has retained the vibrant orange color theme to keep with the retro vibe. The wrist-worn voice assistant has the same square dial with features like a camera, a control wheel, speakers, microphones and the pioneering push-to-speak button included.

The redesigned wearable preserves a sim card slot to allow the watch to function independent of a smartphone, which is essentially the stand-out feature of the Rabbit R1 itself. The app-less handheld AI assistant takes us back to a time when using a phone was simple, and the idea of the watch keeps with that ideology.

It runs the Rabbit OS which allows it to conduct regular tasks like ordering Uber or checking out your grocery directly using the Rabbit’s proprietary Large Action Model (LAM) AI model. LAM is adaptable, which means it can learn and interact with new applications and actions you want it to learn. There is no word on the specifications of the AI Watch, but we presume when it is ready, it will be close to the 4 gigs of memory, 128GB storage, and 2.3GHz MediaTek processor that its inspiration Rabbit R1 features.

Rabbit r1, co-designed with Teenage Engineering, is a cute pocket AI assistant

Before the current craze of ChatGPT, image generators, and AI-powered services, the world was obsessed with personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. That fad has died down a bit, though mostly because these voice-controlled disembodied voices have become so common and so ubiquitous in many smart home devices these days. That said, most personal AI assistants can only be accessed either from a stationary device at home, such as a smart speaker or TV or from your smartphone, which means you can’t call on your digital friend when you’re outside and can’t pull your phone out. That’s the problem that the Rabbit r1 aims to solve by putting a smart, AI-powered personal assistant in a cute little gadget that feels like a Tamagotchi made for serious purposes.

Designers: Rabbit x Teenage Engineering

You wouldn’t immediately associate the Rabbit r1 with AI when you first see it. It initially looks like a simple toy with a pixelated rabbit that’s actually just a blocky head with long ears in a square orange device that fits in your hand nicely. That this rabbit head can show some expressions, blink, wink, or even wear headphones further cements its image as a toy, but it’s actually the face, or rather the head, of what may be the cutest AI assistant to grace the market.

The Rabbit r1 is basically a dedicated AI-powered assistant, formally marketed as “your pocket companion,” that makes the usual AI features more accessible by divorcing them from your phone or home speaker. The idea is that you’d simply pull this less conspicuous (if not for its bright orange color) device out of your pocket or bag, push and hold down a button to talk to the rabbit, and then wait for its response both on the screen as well as via audio. Rabbit OS, as the software platform is being called, seems plenty capable and can answer almost any question, and the rotating camera even does image recognition so you can identify viral personalities or get a suggestion on what to cook based on what you have in your fridge.

If the r1’s aesthetic looks familiar, then you might have recognized Teenage Engineering’s design DNA in it. The Swedish company is best known for its distinctive music-creation devices, and it is indeed the creative genius behind this pocket AI device’s equally distinctive design. Suffice it to say, you won’t be embarrassed to be seen in public using this device, especially in places where a smartphone would be even more impolite or impossible.

The Rabbit r1 is designed to be super simple to use, which is why it only has a single push button and an analog scroll wheel, though the screen is, of course, touch-enabled. In addition to the usual queries, Rabbit OS will also be able to connect with the same apps and services as typical AI assistants, though it’s still a work in progress. It seems that the concept and the design have resounded with many people and the initial batch of 10,000 pre-orders for this $199 sold out on the first day. Whether it will be able to deliver on its promise, we’ll have to wait for initial reviews to see, and hear.