This AI startup made a $199 gadget that replaces apps with 'rabbits' - and it might just work

Rabbit Inc, in partnership with Teenage Engineering, has unveiled a device that can complete complex tasks through natural language inputs.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Rabbit R1
June Wan/ZDNET

As companies race to implement AI capabilities onto our most personal gadgets, one Santa Monica startup may have everyone beat by taking the road less traveled.

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At CES today, Rabbit Inc. launched R1, a $199 consumer device powered by a natural-language operating system, with the goal of making app interactions obsolete. 

"We've come to a point where we have hundreds of apps on our smartphones with complicated UX designs that don't talk to each other. As a result, end users are frustrated with their devices and are often getting lost," said Rabbit CEO, Jesse Lyu.

Lyu's not wrong. While it's become habitual for humans to interact with apps and web interfaces in a systematic way -- scrolling through drop-downs, long-tapping on text to copy and paste, filtering searches, etc. -- an AI that's trained to fulfill those tasks saves us time and energy.

Rabbit R1 overview
June Wan/ZDNET

At the core of Rabbit R1 is the company's "Large Action Model," an AI foundation that can train "rabbits" to see and learn how a user interacts with their typical apps and web experiences and then reproduce it, when asked for, on a customized cloud platform. This way, instead of requiring users to download multiple apps on their personal devices, the Large Action Model can access the services via a private web portal, dubbed "Rabbit hole," in which users can sign into their accounts, allow permissions, and more.

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"Similar to handing one's unlocked phone to a friend who will help order takeout, Rabbit OS (the device's operating system) performs tasks for users with their permission, without preemptively storing their identity information or passwords," the company explains in its press release.

The focus on security extends to the industrial design of the R1, which was made in partnership with Teenage Engineering, the firm responsible for some of the most creative designs in tech, including the Nothing Phone

Rabbit R1 Buttons

Besides the pocketable figure of the R1, there's a rotating "Rabbit eye" camera that, by default, covers its view by facing downward. The camera can be used for video calls, as well as "executing some of the most advanced computer vision applications," according to the company. I'll have a greater sense of what that chain of tech jargon implies during my CES demo.

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Also, the microphone on the R1, mainly used for voice commands, only turns on when you press the side-mounted push-to-talk button. Other design elements include a 2.88-inch touchscreen display, a scroll wheel (pictured above) for navigating the OS, and a USB-C port for charging. The R1 is equipped with a 1,000mAh battery, 128GB of storage, and a SIM slot for mobile data.

Preorders for the Rabbit R1 begin today, with a rather accessible price (as far as CES announcements go) of $199, no monthly subscription required. By the time you're reading this, I'll be getting a hands-on demo of the Rabbit R1, seeing if one of the first standalone AI devices in 2024 can truly live up to the hype. Stay tuned for all of my initial thoughts. 

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