Rabbit denies that the Rabbit R1 is fundamentally just an Android app

The Rabbit R1, a AI gadget that's equal parts charming and puzzling, is now out in the wild, and we've just spent a confusing day with it. But how exactly does the bright orange assistant actually work? Well, Rabbit has now refuted accusations that the R1 is fundamentally run by a single Android app.

Android Authority recently revealed how it had installed the Rabbit R1 launcher's APK (Android Package) on an Android phone, showing that the device is likely both running Android and that its interface is powered by an Android app.

But Rabbit's founder and CEO Jesse Lyu told the site in a statement (echoed by a Rabbit post on X, formerly Twitter) that the reality is a more bit nuanced. It said that “rabbit r1 is not an Android app” and that “to clear any misunderstanding and set the record straight, rabbit OS and LAM run on the cloud with very bespoke AOSP [Android Open Source Project] and lower level firmware modifications”.

In other words, the R1's real juice is in the cloud rather than an on-device app, and that “a local bootleg APK without the proper OS and Cloud endpoints won’t be able to access our service”. 

Rabbit r1 device

(Image credit: Rabbit)

None of this is a huge surprise, nor does it directly contradict Android Authority's broader points about the device. It'd be unfair to say the Rabbit R1 is as simple as an Android app because its LLM (large language model) and LAM (large action model) live in the cloud and can't be accessed on a phone, nor could a phone interact with them in the same way. 

But at the same time, the on-device client for those features is effectively an Android app – and that goes to the heart of those arguing that the whole experience could still live on a smartphone, and may even be better as a result.  

Why isn't the Rabbit R1 just an app?

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Back when the Rabbit R1 first launched, the company explained in the X (formerly Twitter) thread above why it was a piece of hardware rather than just a smartphone app. The argument was essentially that today's apps are constricted by the smartphone experience and that Rabbit wanted to rethink how we interact with AI apps – and that it could only do that with new hardware.

Our early experiences, and the many others from tech reviewers, suggest that the Rabbit R1 hasn't yet justified its existence as a standalone gadget. The R1 is undoubtedly a fun, tactile little device whose Teenage Engineering design has sparked a lot of attention from gadget-starved tech fans.

As TechRadar's US Editor At Large Lance Ulanoff states in our early Rabbit R1 hands-on, there are so many things the R1 can't do that “I'm constantly reaching for my phone” which is “a device that has multiple built-in cameras, a working phone, a calculator, and Microsoft CoPilot and OpenAI ChatGPT on it”. The latter are both generative AI platforms that “are faster than Rabbit's LAM and more effective”.

Unfortunately, the Rabbit R1 doesn't currently do enough that can't be achieved with your smartphone using other AI apps. Rabbit has now pushed its first software update to improve some early issues (like battery life and music playback), but those fundamentals look unlikely to change soon – regardless of debates around bootlegged Rabbit OS apps and its Android underpinnings.

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New Rabbit R1 demo promises a world without apps – and a lot more talking to your tech

We’ve already talked about the Rabbit R1 before here on TechRadar: an ambitious little pocket-friendly device that contains an AI-powered personal assistant, capable of doing everything from curating a music playlist to booking you a last-minute flight to Rome. Now, the pint-sized companion tool has been shown demonstrating its note-taking capabilities.

The latest demo comes from Jesse Lyu on X, founder and CEO of Rabbit Inc., and shows how the R1 can be used for note-taking and transcription via some simple voice controls. The video (see the tweet below) shows that note-taking can be started with a short voice command, and ended with a single button press.

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It’s a relatively early tech demo – Lyu notes that it “still need bit of touch” [sic] – but it’s a solid demonstration of Rabbit Inc.’s objectives when it comes to user simplicity. The R1 has very little in terms of a physical interface, and doubles down by having as basic a software interface as possible: there’s no Android-style app grid in sight here, just an AI capable of connecting to web apps to carry out tasks.

Once you’ve recorded your notes, you can either view a full transcription, see an AI-generated summary, or replay the audio recording (the latter of which requires you to access a web portal). The Rabbit R1 is primarily driven by cloud computing, meaning that you’ll need a constant internet connection to get the full experience.

Opinion: A nifty gadget that might not hold up to criticism

As someone who personally spent a lot of time interviewing people and frantically scribbling down notes in my early journo days, I can definitely see the value of a tool like the Rabbit R1. I’m also a sucker for purpose-built hardware, so despite my frequent reservations about AI, I truly like the concept of the R1 as a ‘one-stop shop’ for your AI chatbot needs.

My main issue is that this latest tech demo doesn’t actually do anything I can’t do with my phone. I’ve got a Google Pixel 8, and nowadays I use the Otter.ai app for interview transcriptions and voice notes. It’s not a perfect tool, but it does the job as well as the R1 can right now.

Rabbit r1

The Rabbit R1’s simplicity is part of its appeal – though it does still have a touchscreen. (Image credit: Rabbit)

As much as I love the Rabbit R1’s charming analog design, it’s still going to cost $ 199 (£159 / around AU$ 300) – and I just don’t see the point in spending that money when the phone I’ve already paid for can do all the same tasks. An AI-powered pocket companion sounds like an excellent idea on paper, but when you take a look at the current widespread proliferation of AI tools like Windows Copilot and Google Gemini in our existing tech products, it feels a tad redundant.

The big players such as Google and Microsoft aren’t about to stop cramming AI features into our everyday hardware anytime soon, so dedicated AI gadgets like Rabbit Inc.’s dinky pocket helper will need to work hard to prove themselves. The voice control interface that does away with apps completely is a good starting point, but again, that’s something my Pixel 8 could feasibly do in the future. And yet, as our Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff puts it, I might still end up loving the R1…

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What exactly is the Rabbit R1? CES 2024’s AI breakout hit explained

We were first introduced to the Rabbit R1 in January 2024, at CES 2024, but what exactly is it? The charming sidekick (designed by Teenage Engineering) is promising to take pocket gadgets to the next level – offering something like a smartphone, but with an intuitive, unified, AI-driven interface that means you (theoretically, at least) need to interact with individual apps and websites.

If you're curious about the Rabbit R1 and the ways in which it might change the course of personal computing – or at least show us how next-gen smartphone voice assistants might work – we've gathered together everything you need to know about it here. From what it costs and how it works, to the AI engine driving the R1 experience, all the details of this potentially revolutionary device are here.

The first batches of the Rabbit R1 are due to start shipping to users later in 2024, although it seems availability is going to be rather limited to begin with – so you might have to wait a while to get your very own Rabbit R1.

Rabbit R1: one-minute overview

Rabbit r1 device

The r1 (Image credit: Rabbit)

The Rabbit R1 is a lot like a phone in terms of its looks, and in some of its features: it has a camera and a SIM card slot, and it supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. What's different, and what makes the Rabbit R1 special, is the interface: instead of a grid of apps, you get an AI assistant that talks to your favorite apps and does everything for you.

For example, you could get the R1 to research a holiday destination and book flights to it, or queue up a playlist of your favorite music, or book you a cab. In theory, you can do anything you can already do on your phone, just by asking. That said, there remain a lot of questions over exactly how it works and protects your privacy in the way it describes.

We've seen next-gen personal assistants depicted in movies like Her, and the R1 is trying to make that a reality – leveraging the latest AI capabilities to replace the traditional smartphone interface with something a lot more intuitive and slick.

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Another way to think about the Rabbit R1 is as an evolution of the Amazon Echo, Google Nest, and Apple HomePod smart speakers. The voice-controlled digital assistants on these devices can do some rudimentary tasks – like check the weather or play music – but the R1 wants to go way beyond what they're capable of.

Rabbit says the R1 is “the future of human-machine interfaces”, and you can check out its pitch for the device in its very Apple-flavored CES 2024 keynote below.

Rabbit r1: release date and price

The first batch of 10,000 units of the Rabbit R1 were made available to preorder at the same time as the device was announced at CES, on January 9, 2024. Those units quickly sold out, as did a second batch of 10,000 units made available shortly after.

Rabbit says that the people who got their preorders in should start having their devices shipped to them in March and April 2024. At the time of writing, there's no indication yet when another batch of units will be made available to preorder, or when we might see the r1 go on sale more widely.

What we do know is that the price of the Rabbit R1 starts at $ 199, which works out at around £155 / AU$ 300. To begin with, the Rabbit R1 is available to order in the US, Canada, the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan, from the Rabbit website.

What's more, unlike rival AI devices such as the Humane AI Pin, there's no ongoing subscription fee that you have to pay out.

Rabbit r1: hardware

Rabbit r1 device

The r1 comes in a distinctive color (Image credit: Rabbit)

The Rabbit r1 is square, and bright orange, and comes with a 2.88-inch color touchscreen on the front. It's quite a compact device, almost small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and it weighs in at 115 grams (about 4 oz). There's only one design, for now – you can't pick this up in multiple colors.

We know there's a far-field mic embedded in the R1, as well as built-in speakers. There's an integrated 360-degree camera here too, which is apparently called the Rabbit Eye. You can interact with elements by touching the screen, and there's an analog scroll wheel at the side of the device as well, if you need it.

Rabbit r1 device

The r1 camera (Image credit: Rabbit)

On the right of the Rabbit R1 is a push-to-talk button, which you make use of whenever you want to talk to the AI assistant on the device. There's no need for any “hey Google” or “hey Siri” wake command, and it also means the assistant doesn't have to be constantly listening out for your voice. Double-tapping the button activates the on-board camera.

Under the hood we've got a 2.3GHz MediaTek Helio processor, and Rabbit says the device offers “all day” battery life. That battery can be charged with a USB-C charge cable and power adapter, but it's worth bearing in mind that these aren't included in the box, so you'll have to use ones you've already got.

Rabbit R1: software

With its bright orange casing, the Rabbit r1 looks kind of cute, but it's the software that really makes it stand out. If you've used something like ChatGPT or Google Bard already, then this is something similar: Rabbit OS is fronted by an AI chatbot, capable of both answering questions and performing tasks.

In the CES keynote demo, Rabbit founder and CEO Jesse Lyu showed the R1 answering philosophical questions, checking stock prices, looking up information about movies, playing music on Spotify, booking an Uber, ordering a pizza, and planning a vacation (complete with flights and hotel reservations).

Rabbit r1 software

The r1 runs Rabbit OS (Image credit: Rabbit)

To get some of this working, you need to connect the Rabbit OS with your various apps and services, which can be done through a web portal. From the demo we've seen, it looks as though Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Expedia, Uber, eBay, and Amazon will be some of the services you can connect to.

Rabbit is keen to emphasize that it doesn't store any of your login details or track you in any way – it simply connects you to the apps you need – though the specifics of how it does this via the cloud are still unclear. 

Rabbit's privacy page gives us a few more details, stating that “when you interact with rabbit OS, you will be assigned a dedicated and isolated environment on our cloud for your own LAM [large action model]. When our rabbits perform tasks for you, they will use your own accounts that you have securely granted us control over through our rabbit hole web portal”.

It also adds that “we do not store your passwords for these services. Rabbits will ask for permission and clarification during the execution of any tasks, especially those involving sensitive actions such as payments.” Exactly how Rabbit provides each user with a “dedicated and isolated environment” in its cloud isn't yet clear, but we should find out more once it lands with its first early adopters.

We've also been told the R1 can handle communication, real-time translation, and analyze images taken with the camera – show the R1 what's in your fridge, for example, and it could up with a dish you can cook.

The Rabbit R1 promises speedy responses too, quicker than you'd get with other generative AI bots. You can converse with the R1 as you would with Siri or Google Assistant, or you can bring up an on-screen keyboard by shaking the device. It calls its on-board AI a Large Action Model or LAM, similar to a Large Language Model or LLM (familiar from bots like ChatGPT), but with a lot more agency.

Rabbit r1 keynote

The r1 wants to take over multiple phone tasks (Image credit: Rabbit)

On top of all this, Rabbit says you can teach the R1 new skills. So, if you showed it how to go online and order your groceries for you, the next time it would be able to do that all by itself. In the CES demo, we saw the Rabbit R1 learning how to create AI images through Midjourney, and then replicating the process on its own.

Interestingly, Rabbit says it doesn't want the R1 to replace your phone – it wants to work alongside it. The R1 can't, for example, browse YouTube, check social media or let you organize your email (at least not yet), so it would seem that the humble smartphone will be sticking around for a while yet.

While some of the specifics about how the Rabbit R1 works and interacts with your favorite apps and services remain unclear, it's undoubtedly one of the most exciting pieces of AI hardware so far – as shown by the rapid sell-out of its early stock. We'll bring you more first impressions as soon as we've got our hands on one of 2024's early tech stars. 

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