Image credit : Humane AI
Humane, a startup founded by former Apple design and engineering team members Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, has secured a whopping $100 million in Series C funding to develop its AI-powered, integrated device and cloud services platform. The funding round attracted a roster of impressive investors, including Microsoft, LG Technology Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, OpenAI CEO and co-founder Sam Altman, Tiger Global, SK Networks, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, and Kindred Ventures, which led the round.
With this latest funding, Humane has now raised a total of $230 million from existing and previous investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. The startup’s workforce has also grown to 200 employees as it focuses on innovation, research, and development.
Humane’s work is shrouded in mystery, and neither Chaudhri nor Bongiorno are ready to disclose what the startup has been working on for the past five years. However, the duo has promised to unveil their creation in the spring.
Despite the secrecy, some clues about Humane’s technology can be gleaned from its patent portfolio and hiring trends. For instance, in 2020, Humane filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a “body-worn device” that uses a “laser projection system” to create projected AR glasses that can identify objects in the real world and apply digital imagery to them. Furthermore, the company was also hiring Android developers three years ago to create apps for “personal live broadcasting,” “senior monitoring,” “memory recall,” and “personal guide.”
John Gruber, a well-known blogger, has also offered some insights into Humane’s work. He claims to have seen a leaked copy of the company’s 2021 pitch deck, which describes a device similar to a Star Trek communicator badge. The device would feature an AI-connected, always-on camera that saves photos and videos to the cloud, and lidar sensors for world-mapping and detecting hand gestures.
Humane’s collaborations with its investors offer additional hints about its technology. For example, Microsoft will provide cloud processing power, while SK Networks will handle distribution. The startup is also partnering with OpenAI to integrate its technology into its device, whatever form it takes. Additionally, Humane is working with LG on R&D projects for the next phase of its product lifecycle and adapting its technology for smart home devices. Finally, Volvo is partnering with Humane on a potential offering for the automotive industry.
Despite the impressive roster of investors and strategic partners, some experts remain cautious about Humane’s future. Startups with massive funding but no commercialized products are often risky investments, and Humane may suffer the same fate as other high-profile hardware misfires, such as Magic Leap, Andy Rubin’s Essential, and Nothing by ex-OnePlus CEO Carl Pei.
Additionally, rumors suggest that Apple wants nothing to do with Humane, and that Chaudhri and Bongiorno left the company on bad terms. Chaudhri allegedly took excessive personal credit for the work done by his larger team, leading to strained relationships with his former colleagues in Cupertino.
Despite the rumors and the lack of concrete details, Humane remains focused on “trust and privacy from day zero” and on its investment in AI. Chaudhri believes that AI can have a transformative impact on everyday life, but that it requires a large amount of data to do so. Humane is thus building devices and platforms for a new era, which will require ongoing development and redevelopment.