The Bunny R1 can be held in your palm and it will respond to queries, start a Spotify playlist or summon a taxi at the press of a button. Seems familiar, doesn’t it? The Bunny R1 isn’t a conventional smartphone. Instead, it guarantees to be a dedicated personal assistant run by AI, and it is expected to be available late March for $199.
Our mobile phones excel at numerous things, like capturing vacation photos, entertaining us with a steady stream of bite-sized videos, and serving as our personal organizers. This is exactly the issue, according to Jesse Lyu, creator and CEO of AI technology startup Bunny. He argues that the multiple apps and features available on our phones have taken away their simplicity, and he’s looking to alter that with the R1, which premiered at CES 2024.
You interact with the R1 by pushing a physical push-to-talk button to ask a question or play a song on Spotify as if you were speaking into a walkie-talkie. The phone’s software is powered by a large action model or an algorithm that can learn from how humans use apps and interfaces so that it can replicate and automate those processes. Lyu likens it to handing your phone to a friend to order takeout rather than doing so yourself.
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There’s no lack of virtual assistants capable of nearly the same things that Bunny’s R1 claims to do. Google and Amazon are also imbuing their own virtual helpers with generative AI smarts to make them even more capable at handling complex requests more effortlessly. Lyu sees the need for a purpose-built device for getting things done that’s separate from your phone and therefore less distracting. He argues that just because your phone can do the same thing doesn’t mean it’s the superior experience.
That argument will require a lot of persuasion, especially considering how attached to our phones we’ve become. According to a survey from Reviews.org, 89% of Americans check their phone within the first 10 minutes of waking up, and 60% sleep with their phone at night. Still, the Bunny R1, together with startup Humane’s recently declared AI pin, is another indication that tech companies are increasingly looking to create new gadgets around AI. Many have already found Bunny’s promise to be appealing enough to purchase an R1. The company announced on Jan. 10 that it moved 10,000 units on its first day of preorders.
The R1 has a simple appearance
The R1’s bright orange hue, relatively small screen and scroll wheel give it a nostalgic and nearly retro look. It’s incredibly lightweight and is literally half the size of your average smartphone, as you can see in the photo of the R1 sitting on top of my iPhone 15 below. In fact, its size and shape feel similar to using a flip phone like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or 2023 Motorola Razr when closed, although it’s significantly lighter.
The R1 shares certain similarities with smartphones, such as a touchscreen display and a camera, but these components are utilized in distinct ways.
The R1 doesn’t have a traditional phone operating system, for instance, but instead uses that 2.88-inch screen to present cards in response to your requests. The camera isn’t really meant for documenting your days on Instagram but rather is intended to assist with visual queries like snapping photos of what’s in your fridge to generate recipe ideas.
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Although it’s not being positioned as a phone, you can certainly make phone calls with it since it has a SIM card slot along with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. It runs on a 2.3Ghz MediaTek Helios P35 processor and has 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.
It doesn’t run apps, but it can connect to your apps
The R1 doesn’t have apps in the traditional sense, but it connects to services to carry out requests. Playing a playlist on Spotify or calling an Uber requires you to link those apps to your Bunny account through an online portal. That could end up being a cumbersome process, considering you’d have to manually connect any service you’d want Bunny to factor into your usage. Bunny says it doesn’t store any login data and that authentication methods happen on the app’s system.
The device uses Bunny’s proprietary large action model to execute tasks, along with OpenAI’s GPT-4 model to understand your spoken requests. During my brief time trying it, I asked the Bunny R1 to play music and answer basic knowledge-based questions. The ears on the animated bunny icon shown on the screen adorably perked up when I held the side button to recite my command. I’ll need to spend more time with it before knowing how well it works as a personal assistant for getting things done more quickly and efficiently than my phone.