A firm known as Humane, founded by ex-Apple design and engineering staff Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, recently gained $100 million in order to build a “blended device and cloud functionalities plateform” for Artificial Intelligence.
The latest fundraise for Humane, which is still a bit of a mystery, included considerable support from investors like Kindred Ventures (the lead investor in the Series C), SK Networks, LG Technology Ventures, Microsoft, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Tiger Global, Qualcomm Ventures, and OpenAI Chief Executive and Co-Founder Sam Altman.
Humane has so far brought in $230 million from both current and past financial backers, including Marc Benioff, the head of Salesforce. It has also expanded its team size, with precisely 200 members.
Chaudhri explained in an email to TechCrunch that raising capital via equity was the primary objective of this Series C round, and that through it, the company was able to attract top-level venture capitalists and strategic partners. He pointed out that Humane was crafting a groundbreaking device and services platform, and had been actively involved in innovation, research, and development, allowing it to expand rapidly.
Humane Technologies has generated a great deal of interest due to their hiring of many former Apple company employees that were involved in the iPhone’s touch keyboard, industrial design, and infrastructure. Manu Chaudhri made the design of the iPhone’s home screen, and Marco Bongiorno helped with constructing iPhone, iPad, and Mac software.
Chaudhri and Bongiorno are yet not willing to disclose the project they have been engaged in for the past five years. They are expecting to unfold it sometime in the spring. Some understanding on what they have been creating can be drawn from the patents they own and people they recruited.
In 2020, Humane submitted a request to the USPTO (which was noted by 9to5Google) for a body-worn gadget that uses a laser projection system as an alternative to a display – basically, augmented reality (AR) glasses that can detect objects in the real world and attach virtual images to them. As recently as three years ago, Humane was searching for Android programmers to develop apps for “personal live streaming” as well as “elderly surveillance,” “memory resuscitation” and “individual guide.”
Disclosing some details of its operations, Humane made several alliances with its financial supporters today.
Humane has enlisted the help of SK Networks and Microsoft to get its platform and services in stores, with Microsoft providing cloud services and SK Networks being in charge of retailing. On top of that, Humane has teamed up with OpenAI to link their technology to whatever device they create. LG and Humane are additionally working jointly on research and development for the next part of their item cycle and adapting Humane’s technology for smart home items. Volvo is joining forces with Humane to possibly create a product for the auto industry.
Chaudhri hints that Qualcomm is in partnership with the laser projection system seen in the patent diagrams, due to the presence of a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a camera, 3D camera, depth sensor, heart rate monitor and a wearable battery.
It is rather unclear what the collaboration between OpenAI and Humane is about, as the language used (including phrases like “potential automotive industry offering”) is not exactly concrete. Is it solely a commercial relationship, or does its CEO, Sam Altman, have a stronger connection? Moreover, how can Humane’s technology function in both the smart home and automotive sectors?
Humane is putting priority in building trust and ensuring privacy from the outset, and they are deliberate with investments they make in Artificial Intelligence. CEO Chaudhri repeated the importance of such investments.
She highlighted the potential for artificial intelligence to make a huge difference in our lives but noted that it needs a lot of data in order to be successful. She went on to explain that we’re constructing the tools and resources for a new epoch, meaning that we must continually build and renovate them.
I’m skeptical of startups that have amassed large sums of money but haven’t gotten a product to market.
An example that comes to mind is Magic Leap, which had a lot of promotion years before revealing its first model but ended up being unsuccessful. Just like Humane, there were countless well-known investors associated with MAGIC Leap, including AT&T, Google, and Alibaba Group, as well as partnerships with content creators such as Disney’s Lucasfilm. However, the technology did not satisfy expectations and led investors to reducing the worth of MAGIC Leap and management shifting away from the customer market for the enterprise.
Magic Leap was not the only significant flop recently concerning hardware. Andy Rubin’s Essential seemed promising with the promise of a full ecosystem, But only one Android phone was delivered. Nothing, created by ex-OnePlus CEO Carl Pei, has been more successful, however it had its own set of issues.
I am not predicting Humane will fail in the same way Magic Leap, Essential, and Nothing did. They have done a good job keeping expectations low. However, even though they have employed some of the best tech experts, it is still not a sure thing that they will succeed.
Before I conclude, let me share a quote from Steve Jang, the chief and principal actor at Kindred:
When we first encountered the Humane team and invested in them back in 2019, we were incredibly impressed with their ideas concerning AI and computing in their context. Bethany, Imran, and the CTO named Patrick Gates – all of them once worked at Apple, helping to craft the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and iOS. Over there, they experienced the amazing potential and inevitable shortcomings of the smartphone age. We were very inspired in our initial conversation about the aim to provide a more compassionate and individualized computing experience. The Humane team keeps achieving remarkable accomplishments on their way to a future full of Artificial Intelligence that puts people first and assists them.
I am skeptical of this intriguing possibility, and won’t believe it until I have seen it.