Humane, a startup founded by former Apple design and engineering team Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, has raised another $100 million in Series C funding to build an “integrated device and cloud services platform” for Artificial Intelligence (AI). The round, led by Kindred Ventures, attracted a number of notable investors, including SK Networks, LG Technology Ventures, Microsoft, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Tiger Global, Qualcomm Ventures and OpenAI CEO and co-founder Sam Altman. In total, the company has raised $230 million and has grown to a workforce of 200 employees.
What Was Accomplished With the Funding?
Humane is keeping details of the project under wraps until the official reveal this spring. However, the company’s patent portfolio and hiring reveals some clues. In 2020, the company filed a patent for a “body-worn device” that uses a “laser projection system” instead of a display. Three years ago, it was hiring Android developers to create apps for “personal live broadcasting” as well as “senior monitoring,” “memory recall” and “personal guide.”
Humane also announced strategic tie-ups with its investors. Microsoft is supplying cloud processing power and SK Networks is handling distribution. Humane is collaborating with OpenAI to integrate its tech into the startup’s device, while LG is working with Humane on research and development projects for the next phase of its product lifecycle and adapting Humane’s tech for smart home devices. Finally, Humane is teaming up with Volvo on a potential automotive industry offering and Qualcomm on a wearable battery.
The Risk of High-Profile Hardware Mishaps
Though the company’s promise of a “human-centric” AI computing experience is tantalizing, it’s worth noting the history of high-profile hardware misfires in recent years. Magic Leap, for example, generated enormous hype but ultimately disappointed and nearly died, while Android founder Andy Rubin’s Essential shut down after promising an entire ecosystem of products but delivering only a single Android smartphone.
Humane may have the best tech talent under one roof, but there are no guarantees. Steve Jang, the founder and managing partner at Kindred, said, “When I originally met the Humane team and led their seed round in 2019, we were blown away by the vision of AI and contextual computing. The founders, Bethany and Imran, and much of the team also led by Patrick Gates, CTO, had come from Apple and served as an integral part of designing and building the iPhone, iPad, Watch and iOS platform. In their time and work there, they experienced the power and the limitations of the smartphone era.”
Humane’s Potential Impact on the Future
Humane has a lofty goal of creating a “human-centric” AI computing experience, and the potential for the technology to have a transformative impact on everyday lives is undeniable. The company’s focus on trust and privacy from day one is a promising sign. And with a laundry list of impressive investors and strategic partners, Humane has a fighting chance to make a real difference. Only time will tell if the startup can turn its vision into reality. Humane’s AI platform is promising to bring a “more humane and personalized computing experience.”