Introducing Rabbit R1: The Petite Orange Box that redefines how you use apps with AI assistance

Rabbit R1 fits in the palm of your hand and can answer questions, launch a Spotify playlist, or hail a cab with the push of a button. Sounds familiar. The Rabbit R1 is not a smartphone in the traditional sense. Instead, it promises to be a dedicated, AI-powered personal assistant. Scheduled to ship in late March for $199.

Our phones are great at many things, including taking vacation photos, streaming endless bite-sized videos to keep us entertained, and serving as personal planners. That’s exactly the problem, says Jesse Liu, founder and CEO of AI technology startup Rabbit. He believes that the myriad apps and features available on our phones have taken away simplicity, and he’s looking to change that with his R1, which debuted at CES 2024.

Look at this: A first look at the Rabbit R1 mobile AI device

You don’t open an app and interact with R1. Instead, you can press the physical push-to-talk button to ask questions or play songs on Spotify, just like speaking into a walkie-talkie. Mobile phone software can leverage large-scale action models or algorithms that can learn how humans use apps and interfaces to replicate and automate those processes. Liu likens it to handing your phone to a friend to order takeout instead of ordering it yourself.

read more: Your next phone could be smarter, faster and more flexible

Rabbit R1 AI assistant looks really retro with its orange color

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There is no shortage of virtual assistants that can do almost exactly what Rabbit’s R1 claims to do. Google and Amazon are also bringing generative AI smarts to their own virtual helpers to more easily handle complex requests. Mr. Liu sees the need for a dedicated device to do work, separate from a mobile phone, with fewer distractions. Just because you can do the same thing on your phone doesn’t mean it’s a better experience, he argues.

This argument will take a long time to convince, especially considering how glued we are to our phones. A study by found that 89% of American girlfriends check their phones within 10 minutes of waking up, and 60% sleep with their phones on at night. Still, the Rabbit R1, along with startup Humane’s recently announced AI pin, is another sign that tech companies are increasingly looking to develop new gadgets centered around AI. Many have already found Rabbit’s promise attractive enough to order his R1. The company announced this on January 10th. 10,000 units sold on the first day Pre-order.

Simple looking R1

Rabbit sitting at the table R1 Rabbit sitting at the table R1

John Kim/CNET

The R1’s bright orange hue, relatively small screen, and scroll wheel give it a nostalgic, almost retro look. As you can see in the photo of his R1 placed on top of my iPhone 15 below, it’s incredibly lightweight and literally half the size of your average smartphone. In fact, its size and shape, when closed, is similar to using a foldable phone like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or the 2023 Motorola Razr, but it’s much lighter.

Rabbit R1 on top of iPhone 15 Rabbit R1 on top of iPhone 15

The Rabbit R1 is about half the size of the iPhone 15.

John Kim/CNET

Although the R1 shares some physical similarities with a smartphone, such as a touchscreen display and camera, those parts are used differently.

Back of Rabbit R1 Back of Rabbit R1

Rabbit R1 is bright orange.

John Kim/CNET

For example, the R1 doesn’t have a traditional phone operating system, but instead uses a 2.88-inch screen to display cards upon user request. This camera isn’t really meant to document your days on Instagram, but rather to help you with visual queries like taking a photo of the contents of your fridge to generate recipe ideas.

read more: Best of Show: CES 2024 Technology Winners

Although it’s not positioned as a phone, it does have Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, as well as a SIM card slot, so you can make calls. It is powered by a 2.3Ghz MediaTek Helios P35 processor and comes with 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.

It won’t run the app, but you can connect to it

Rabbit playing music R1 Rabbit playing music R1

Rabbit R1 will be able to use apps on your behalf.

John Kim/CNET

R1 doesn’t have an app in the traditional sense, but it connects to services and makes requests. To play playlists on Spotify or call an Uber, you need to link these apps to your Rabbit account through an online portal. This can end up being a tedious process, given that you have to manually connect the services you want Rabbit to consider usage for. Rabbit says that no login data is stored and the authentication method is done within the app’s system.

The device uses Rabbit’s proprietary large-scale action model to perform tasks and OpenAI’s GPT-4 model to understand voice requests. During a short trial, I asked Rabbit R1 to play music and answer basic knowledge-based questions. When you press the side button and say a command, the ears of the animated bunny icon that appears on the screen glow adorable. You’ll need to spend more time with it to find out how well it works as a personal assistant to get things done faster and more efficiently than your phone.

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With R1, Rabbit is tackling the ambitious goal of carving out a place for new gadgets in our lives in a world already overflowing with screens and sensors. Still, it’s interesting to see new hardware being developed in response to the increased interest in AI we’ve seen over the past year. Still, Rabbit’s software experience is compelling enough to convince you to buy a new device rather than continue using ChatGPT, Google Bard, and other AI helpers on the device you already own. Must be.

For more information, check out What’s Beyond Smartphones and the most exciting mobile tech we saw at CES.

Editor’s note: CNET uses an AI engine to create some stories. See this post for more information.

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