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What is the Rabbit R1, and what can it offer the enterprise?

Is an AI-powered device the next step in AI development, or a marketing gimmick? IT must explore whether the Rabbit R1 and its operating system offer real business benefits.

The emergence of powerful AI language models has caused disruption in many industries, and enterprise mobility is the latest.

Recent years have seen the development of chatbots, image creators and other generative AI tools. But what about a dedicated AI-powered device? That's where the Rabbit R1 comes into play -- a new AI assistant with potential for the enterprise.

To parse out the reality of this potential, it's important to understand what exactly this new technology is. Learn about the R1's features and how it works to figure out whether it can deliver the digital capabilities that organizations need.

What is the Rabbit R1?

The Rabbit R1 is a handheld device with a built-in AI model that the company calls a "large action model," or LAM, in addition to integrations with existing large language models (LLMs). A large action model is an AI model that executes actions based on user input.

The device works to combine a smartphone's voice assistant with the extensive language model processing of a ChatGPT or Google Gemini. In turn, the R1 aims to make it easy for users to ask for help drafting emails, summarizing complex documents and automating complex tasks.

What's unique about the device is that it stands independently from a user's smartphone. Rabbit CEO Jesse Lyu launched the product at CES 2024, stating that the company doesn't intend for the R1 to replace smartphones. Instead, it is a companion device to existing, always-connected end-user mobile phones.

On top of the AI capabilities, device features include the following:

  • 2.88-inch touchscreen.
  • Rotating camera.
  • 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
  • USB-C port and SIM card slot.
  • Analog scroll wheel and push-to-talk button for navigation and interaction with the built-in assistant.
  • 2.3 GHz MediaTek processor.
  • 4 GB of memory.
  • 128 GB of storage.
A front view of the Rabbit R1.
The R1 features a rotating camera and analog scroll wheel.

How does the Rabbit R1 work?

The Rabbit R1 uses existing powerful language models, similar to the technology behind tools such as ChatGPT. The device connects to the internet to access and process information. Users interact with the R1 primarily through voice commands but can also use the manual parts of its interface as needed.

The key thing to understand about Rabbit R1 is the LAM feature in its Rabbit OS. Unlike traditional models that react to language and text, this one goes further by performing actions such as mouse clicks and scrolling. Users can train it in a similar way to a language model.

Those who have preordered the AI device might expect immediate access to a fully trained LAM, but this might not yet be the case.

In a demo at CES, Lyu showed the AI using its computer vision to analyze an Excel file and adding columns based on command input and data available. In the future, it could autonomously suggest actions based on its learning. For example, it might recommend specific steps to edit a photo based on the collective editing experiences it has observed.

During the virtual keynote, Lyu showcased the LAM in conjunction with services that have APIs, such as Spotify and Uber, indicating a potential integration. However, whether the presented functionalities are currently available is still uncertain. Those who have preordered the AI device might expect immediate access to a fully trained LAM, but this might not yet be the case. The responsibility might fall on the early adopters to contribute to the training data and shape the abilities of the LAM. Thus, users should only expect the device to handle complex tasks once sufficient training data has accumulated. It's difficult to estimate how long that will take.

Rabbit R1's suitability for the enterprise

This mix of uncertain capability and AI hype raises the question: Does the Rabbit R1 offer viable benefits in a corporate setting? By including computer vision and LAM, the device has the potential to integrate with various enterprise tools, such as email clients, CRM platforms and project management software. However, this will depend largely on privacy and data security. Business leaders should consider the following factors to determine whether they can scale the R1's benefits across the enterprise:

  • Target audience. The R1 is most valuable to knowledge workers who handle large volumes of text-based data or perform repetitive tasks. Think researchers, analysts, support staff and sales teams who frequently interact with customers. Additionally, the R1's onboard computer vision broadens its application across industries such as manufacturing and retail. In these fields, it could assist workers in analyzing physical spaces, inventory and other related tasks.
  • Competing tools. Several AI-powered tools are available for writing assistance, language translation and summarization. The R1 stands out from this pool, offering dedicated hardware and its large action model. Still, to justify the cost of this device, it needs to prove its value over software-based or app-based tools, as well as the capabilities of users' own mobile phones.
  • Practical AI benefits. Before considering broader adoption, organizations must determine whether AI genuinely improves efficiency and can translate to productivity gains at the individual and enterprise level.

Even if an organization has an ideal use case for the Rabbit R1, admins must think about how end users will realistically interact with the device. Based on early reviews, it appears that the device still has a lot of room for development and improvement. There are the usual concerns around AI, such as false information due to AI hallucinations. Reviewers have also pointed out usability and battery life issues. It might take time before the R1 is ready for enterprise users.

Diagram showing generative AI's benefits for business.
The Rabbit R1's generative AI features offer possible benefits to retail and knowledge workers.

The R1 vs. standard mobile devices and enterprise strategies

It's important to examine how the Rabbit R1 compares to existing tools and device management strategies. It is unlikely that the R1 will fully replace smartphones or laptops -- they offer functionalities that this AI tool cannot match, at least today. This is a new generational form factor, so consumers should think of the R1 as a supplemental device for specific use cases.

There isn't an obvious answer for what sort of management approach IT should take with a device such as the R1. It's still unclear whether there are data controls available for organizations or if tools such as MDM can manage it.

Integrating the R1 into a device management strategy will be essential to maintaining control of corporate data. It could also complicate BYOD policies, which can have crucial security and privacy implications. Business leaders must wait to see how Rabbit plans to give organizations security tools to manage the device effectively.

IT must take the following management considerations into account before adopting AI-based tools such as the Rabbit R1:

  • Data security. The R1 system could have access to sensitive enterprise data in the future, as it has the potential to integrate into various services, such as email, file storage and CRM. It is critical to ensure the security of this data both on the device and during transmission.
  • Compliance. Organizations that have to follow regulations such as HIPAA or GDPR must make sure that the R1 meets relevant industry standards.
  • Updates. A system for regular software and security updates is necessary to ensure the safety and performance of mobile devices. Rabbit has not yet revealed what tools it will supply to organizations for maintaining OS and security updates.

The Rabbit R1's success in the enterprise hinges on demonstrating tangible productivity improvements that outweigh its cost. Organizations will also have to address the IT challenges of data management, security and privacy that it presents.

It's important to remember that gadgets such as the R1 are part of the latest generation of devices. Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, and it is not yet clear what its role should be in the enterprise. With this emerging space and the vast potential AI has to offer, it will take some time for these devices to mature in terms of hardware, usability and user experience. Before banking on the improvements that future versions of the R1 might bring, organizations must find a balance between the productivity promises of AI and the need for security and data controls.

Michael Goad is a freelance writer and solutions architect with experience handling mobility in an enterprise setting.

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