YouTube star Marques Brownlee’s scathing Humane Ai Pin review leads to argument over ethics and influence

YouTube star Marques Brownlee's scathing Humane Ai Pin review leads to argument over ethics and influence

A hot potato: Humane’s Ai Pin recently became available to buy after the company raised a lot of money and publicity for its wearable device. The reviews have been pretty bad, especially from YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee, who called it the worst product he’s ever reviewed. His scathing words have led to an online debate over whether his video was fair or even ethical, given that, with 18.6 million subscribers, Brownlee could have killed the company.

iPhone alumni Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno made some big promises about the Ai Pin, a screenless, square device that can be attached to clothing. It features a camera, microphone, a touch pad, and a laser projector that displays the GUI on a user’s hand. The Ai Pin can also make calls and send and receive text messages. Then there’s the price: $700 plus a $24 per month subscription.

The Ai Pin arrived this month to mostly bad reviews. The biggest complaints are that it simply doesn’t work half the time, is slow, runs hot, and has a short battery life.

YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee made his feelings clear in the title of his Ai Pin video review: “The Worst Product I’ve Ever Reviewed… For Now.”

Brownlee’s complaints echo those of other reviewers, that the Ai Pin is usually wrong, incredibly slow, and has a terrible battery life. There are plenty of other justifiable criticisms in the video, such as the lack of any apps and the projector being almost unreadable outdoors in brighter conditions.

Brownlee’s video has been criticized by some social media users, with one calling it “distasteful, almost unethical, to say this when you have 18 million subscribers.” The poster later added that Brownlee “significantly” influences the market, and that the reviewer just wanted to show he can crush companies. Brownlee himself responded to the post, saying, “We disagree on what my job is.”

Business Insider reports that the author of the post later told the publication it was the title of the video that he had issues with, not the review itself.

Others agreed that an influencer such as Brownlee really does have the power to crush companies and that his review will probably kill Humane.

Somewhat surprisingly, one person who supported Brownlee’s review was Sam Sheffer, Humane’s head of new media. He said the review was honest, solid, and fair.

Brownlee does have some good things to say about the AI Pin: it can be very useful on those occasions it works normally, and the lack of display is great for those desiring more time away from screens.

While Brownlee’s review will doubtlessly have had a big impact, the Ai Pin was always going to be a hard sell. The $700 price and $24 monthly subscription are a lot of money for anything, never mind a product that leaves most people asking, “but what does it actually do?” It’s not as if plenty of other reviewers haven’t laid into it, either.

Humane, founded in 2018, had raised $230 million from investors by the end of 2023. The Ai Pin is its first product. Given that the company laid off 4% of its staff in January, it might also be its last, or maybe not.

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