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Rabbit AI; A Look at This Groundbreaking Technology from an IT Perspective

Rabbit AI; A Look at This Groundbreaking Technology from an IT Perspective

Many of us techno-nerds get excited about new innovations in technology. Over the past few years I’ve been tuning into the Consumer Electronics Show, a massive yearly expo in Las Vegas where exhibitors show off their latest and greatest in consumer electronics. The event covers everything you can imagine, from smart kitchen appliances to new tablets and phones, conceptual car models to personal flying vehicles. 

It’s a fun spectacle, and even if you don’t care for technology too much, you can play a really interesting version of Bingo and try to predict what common household objects are going to get screens on them this year.

One particular new product stole the show though; the Rabbit R1 AI device. I think it’s worth talking about.

What is the Rabbit R1 AI Assistant?

Depending on your first glance, the Rabbit R1 sort of seems like a phone. It also looks like a children’s toy—sort of a “My First Smart Device.” Maybe it’s the bright orange exterior or the chunky plastic design.

The Rabbit R1 is a weird-looking piece of technology, and what it does is really hard to explain in just a few words. Image: Rabbit

The hardware is designed by a company called Teenage Engineering, a hardware manufacturer that makes high-end audio equipment that tends to sport clean, retro designs. Despite its unique design, the Rabbit’s specs make it sound like a smartphone. It has a small 2.88-inch screen, Wi-Fi, supports SIM cards, and has a camera that can swap between facing forwards or backward. There’s a little push-to-talk button on the side and a scroll wheel, which is pretty unique for a phone.

But the Rabbit R1 isn’t a phone. It’s an AI assistant. It won’t replace your phone, but instead, the company insists it will become a new generation of devices that many of us will eventually carry around.

After watching a few video presentations, I think the best way I can describe the Rabbit R1 is by imagining that Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or iOS Siri were given a serious upgrade. That’s actually kind of selling this thing short, as I’m going to talk about in a moment. If the Rabbit R1 can do everything that it promises, and it continues to mature, then Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are going to be laughably antiquated in comparison.

An AI That Is Worth Carrying Around in Your Pocket?

I’ve had some thoughts on artificial intelligence before. It’s a really powerful technology, but with it comes some caveats and a whole lot of considerations. Personally, I’ve seen how artificial intelligence can be useful, and at the same time, I’ve seen how it can be used unethically. 

I think the Rabbit R1 does something unique and really could be a game changer, or if anything, really show us the true potential of this new technology.

What Does the Rabbit R1 Actually Do?

When you think about your smartphone, you usually think about the different apps on it. You can use your Uber app to get a ride, order products from Amazon with the Amazon app, get delivery with Doordash and manage your to-do list with Todoist. You might have Google Assistant or Siri or Bixby or some other assistant that can do bits and pieces of that stuff, but it’s pretty limited. For example, Google Assistant is really good at looking at your Google Calendar and performing web searches and other things that are all under Google’s umbrella. What Google Assistant isn’t so good at is using some other app to do something for you.

That’s where Rabbit comes in. In the simplest terms, it uses computers and smartphones just like we do—it sees the user interface that is designed for us humans and navigates through it using what’s called a Large Action Model. Think of it as a universal remote for all of your applications. Where Google or Siri can come back and say “Oh, you want to book a ride to the airport on March 8th at 9 AM? Here’s the Uber app, you can do that here,” Rabbit will go into the app or website for you and actually book it for you, and all you have to do is confirm.

So that’s pretty cool on its own.

Where it gets even crazier is when you teach Rabbit to do new things for you.

In the CES demonstration, we’re shown how you can teach Rabbit to go to a particular messaging app on a computer, generate an AI image using Midjourney, and display it on screen. It’s a fairly simple procedure that only takes a human a few steps, but to a machine, this is a complicated process that involves critical thinking, understanding what to click on, and making sense of information as it happens. Rabbit is able to quickly understand the goal and learn, almost as if you were teaching another human how to do something.

The possibilities for this are endless. This is a level of automation that we really haven’t seen demonstrated before.

Upon watching this, my IT brain started spinning into overdrive. Time-consuming, repeatable tasks can be taught to this AI, regardless of the software you use. Your business could be using custom software to manage your inventory or to manage your customers, and, from the looks of things, Rabbit should be able to be trained on how to use it.

Here’s a scenario I built out in my head: Let’s say you go to a tradeshow or some other event, and come back with a huge pile of business cards and a spreadsheet of participants who attended the event. You want to plug the spreadsheet into your CRM (let’s say you use Salesforce). Then, for anyone who handed you a business card, you want to make sure that they are in your CRM with a note and a follow-up task to give them a call.

Theoretically, with Rabbit, you can snap a photo of each business card, and then show it how you want the data entered into Salesforce. Go through all the steps for one or two contacts, and then tell it to handle the rest.

And it just does it.

Then, as an afterthought, you can go back to Rabbit and ask “If anyone was already in Salesforce from the list, make a task to remind me to send them a personal email. In the task, please include a message for me to send out that says how nice it was to see them at the event, and to see if they want to set up a one-on-one call.”

From what we’ve seen, this is what Rabbit is capable of.

This is why this technology has me so excited. AI is neat, but this is a huge step beyond what we’ve seen when it comes to actually making our lives easier.

From a Security Perspective, Rabbit Scares the Pants Off Me

As amazing as this is, and as much as I can’t wait to play around with the new device, I have concerns.

We only got to see a small demonstration of the device and the AI-powered software. As amazing as it sounds, when you give a system THAT MUCH access to your computer or phone or the different accounts and services you log into, it does bring up the question of how secure it is. The folks at Rabbit claim that they don’t store or collect any sensitive data and that you have full control over what Rabbit knows and can touch and what it can do.

From an IT perspective, this is pretty scary. According to the company, the Rabbit uses your own accounts that you grant, and everything is isolated and secure. Where Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant use APIs and special secure access to manage apps and services that are designed to play nice with these virtual assistants, Rabbit uses it more or less like a human would. It’s like trusting another human with complete access to your digital life, except that human comes in a bright orange case and retails for about $200, and is constantly connected to the Internet. This inherently makes me just a little nervous, because the stakes are that much higher and the onus of cybersecurity is a lot bigger than simply telling the user something is secure.

Automation at This Level is Groundbreaking

I realize I’m flip-flopping here, but I can’t tell you just how blown away I am at the potential of this sort of system. In the IT industry, we automate as much as we can. We’re able to do so in several different ways; we’ve invested in extremely high-end software that handles custom reporting and notifications and allows us to handle a lot of routine tasks across multiple devices. We can also write batch files that automate tasks for deploying software and patches, saving our techs a ton of time when sending out an update across a thousand workstations at once. We try to turn as much as we can into procedures and spend a considerable amount of time building out documentation and best practice guides so we can always operate at our best while saving our brain power and critical thinking on the hard stuff as it comes in.

This device puts a lot of that automation capability into the hands of non-technical users. If a manager can teach another user how to perform a task, they can teach Rabbit just as easily. It doesn’t require the deeper skillset of writing batch files or understanding the nuances of different settings or getting caught up jumping around different applications. It almost gives me chills just running through how much this emerging technology can actually do for small businesses and the individuals who work at them.

I can’t wait to learn more about just how secure everything is, and to truly see how flexible and capable this new AI system can be. I hope my concerns are put to rest, because I think this new device is going to pave the way for even more incredible innovations in automation and AI.

Just remember, like all technology, you need to be wary, but at the same time, the future is looking to be VERY exciting!

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment below if you are thinking about getting the Rabbit, or how you feel about AI as an automation tool.

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