Rabbit in a Hat

Bret Waters
The Launch Path
Published in
3 min readJan 17, 2024

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I did not go to CES this year, but the talk of the town was a new device called Rabbit. It’s not really a phone (although it does video calls and has a SIM slot). It’s not really for taking pictures (although it does have a camera). It’s not really Siri or Alexa (although you do speak commands to it). It’s not really ChatGPT (but you can ask it questions and it gives good answers).

It’s a small device (about half the size of an iPhone), with a sort of a retro toy look. Selling for $199 (with no subscription), they are calling it an “AI assistant”.

It’s a little wireless terminal that connects to the cloud where the real magic is — Rabbit’s Large Action Model (LAM), an AI engine that can navigate all sorts of app interfaces to perform tasks. So instead of you needing to open the Uber app and then the Instacart app, you simply say to your Rabbit “Order me a ride home and have some pizza waiting for me when I get there!”. Then it takes care of everything for you while you listen to some nice music.

From a tech perspective, here’s the potentially revolutionary part: instead of using a software API to connect to Uber and the other apps, it simply learns how to operate them for you. Think of it as a sort of universal remote-control.

I’m skeptical that this particular device will succeed in the mass market. The reality is that we’re all very attached to our mobile phones, and they get the tasks done pretty well for us. In his product launch keynote, the Rabbit CEO/Founder says that they developed the device because the smartphone model is nearly two-decades old and we’re all tired of it. OK, but I doubt that’s how most consumers feel. I already bring my iPhone everywhere I go and I’m unlikely to start bringing along another device just for ordering pizza with my voice.

Having said that, I do think we’re at an inflection point for the human-computer interface. The introduction of “point-and-click” in the early 1980’s was definitely an inflection point — moving from command line to point-and-click really did change everything. We’ve kept extending that point-and-click paradigm for 40 years now as we brought it to personal computers, the WWW, and then to mobile devices. Today, a new set of ingredients are in place for a completely different approach to the human-computer interface. And it will come.

My prediction is that Rabbit will likely end up like General Magic — a startup that creates ground-breaking new concepts but fails, only to eventually see their concepts become commonplace all over the market.

Here’s what I know for sure — the last 30 years have been about us learning to work with computers, and the next 30 will be about computers learning to work with us. The new Rabbit device shown at CES last week may be an important glimpse of that future.

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Bret Waters
The Launch Path

Silicon Valley guy. Teaches at Stanford. Eats fish tacos.