Secretive startup full of Apple talent aims to change your life through wearables

A YouTube video surfaced Monday shedding some light on one of the more interesting technology startups in recent memory. It’s called Humane, based in San Francisco and founded by heavy hitters from Apple.

It has no products yet, but over five years of existence it has amassed 140 employees, including a whopping 60 from Apple.

And its patent applications and other clues uncovered in Sam Sheffer’s video, below, suggest the company expects to change how the world interacts with technology. In part, that could take place through remarkable wearables that reduced the burden of addictive gadgets like iPhones.

After the iPhone: Mysterious tech startup Humane appears to aim for wearables that blend technology with your life

On his YouTube channel, Sam Sheffer describes himself as “an independent multi-platform content creator, producer, entertainer, host, YouTuber, and technologist.” He “worked in tech media from 2009 – 2017 at Engadget, The Vergeand Mashable.”

He posted a 21-minute video Monday entitled “What comes after the iPhone?” It’s essentially everything he could find out about Humane. It includes theories about what products its staff full of ex-Apple employees are building. You can watch it below.

“What happens when 60 former Apple employees come together to start a new kind of tech company?” his description of the video asks. “In this video, I tell you everything I know about this secretive technology startup, what I think they’re building, and why I think they’re gonna change the world.”

Founded by Apple luminaries

Sheffer goes on to describe and insert quotes and such from Humane’s founders, calling them a “power couple” who left Apple in 2016, just a few months after they jointly presented messaging updates in iOS 10 at WWDC.

One half of that pair is Imran Chaudhri, a designer, inventor and innovator who spent more than 20 years at Apple. He worked on the Macintosh, iPod, iPad, Apple Watch and iPhone. But he’s best known for inventing the iPhone’s user interface and interactions. He’s named as an inventor on thousands of patents.

“His work defines how the world interacts with technology, and is driven by his insistence on putting the human experience front and center in the design process,” the biography page on the Humane website says.

While at Apple, Chaudhri met the other half, Bethany Bongiorno, who led product teams. She became a director of software engineering for iOS and macOS projects. She played a leadership role in the launch of the original iPad in 2002.

“Together, Imran and Bethany envision a future that is even more intelligent and even more personal, and have committed Humane to building not for the world as it exists today but as it could be tomorrow,” the bio page says. “Rethinking, reconsidering, and remembering honest human connection in the context of computing, they seek to reshape the role of technology in our lives.”

Lofty mission statement

That doesn’t tell you much about what to expect in the form of real-world products, of course. And neither does the company’s impressively lofty mission statement:

We believe in building innovative technology that feels familiar, natural, and human.
Technology that improves the human experience and is born from good intentions.
Products that put us back in touch with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
Experiences that are built on trust with interactions that feel magical, and bring joy.
Humane is the next shift between humans and computing.
The best human experience, ever.

60 staffers from Apple with 420 years of experience

Sheffer goes on to give an overview of the 60 staffers who came to Humane from Apple, citing some key people.

They include a camera product engineer who spent a decade at Apple and is now Humane’s director of camera technologies. The startup’s chief technology officer spent 13 years in Cupertino, working in part on iCloud, iMessage and FaceTime. Sheffer named a few others, each with more than a decade of experience with Apple in key roles.

“Humane has to be working on something truly extraordinary for them to be able to poach these many former Apple employees. Five, 10 even 15 people, OK, but they’ve hired dozensSheffer said. “I actually ran the numbers, these 60 former Apple employees have spent a combined 420 years at the company.”

But not everyone at Humane came from Apple. Others came from companies like Google, Intel, HP and Lyft.

Interesting trademarks and patent applications

Sheffer next spends time in the video on Humane’s trademark and patent applications.

But first, he further stoked the flames of curiosity with some choice Chaudhri commentary along the lines of freeing people from their smartphone addictions:

“The relationship we have with our devices now is overpowered by the density of information that people have to contend with on a daily basis,” Chaudhri says in a clip from an interview. “And it’s what we’re doing that you mean looking at restoring that balance, making it so that the devices are no longer a burden. But they’re actually what they’re intended to do. And that is to make you feel superhuman, not be enslaved.”

And the following quote really cuts to the chase, from the man who helped make the iPhone what it is, but seems ready for it to go away:

“The ultimate interface with computing is one that completely disappears. When that completely disappears, then we turn back to humanity. And that’s when everything starts to get resolved in the right way,” Chaudhri said in another interview.

The trademarks Humane wants to secure also shed a bit of light. They range from visuals, like spelling the name as it is in the company’s URL, hu.ma.ne, to phrases, such as “the future is not in your face.”

At least 2 hardware products

But it’s the patent applications that gives the best sense of what Humane is up to. There are at least two hardware products represented, with ties to cloud computing and AI.

The first few patent applications below concern a wearable device with a wireless battery pack that may attach magnetically to your clothes. It could feature a laser-projection system, a wide angle camera with optical image stabilization, a depth sensor, a number of other sensors, GPS memory, a processor and a microphone. The hardware connects to a cloud computing platform.

The device appears to be meant to detect everything around you to help you contextualize, store and sort data, making it available to you in ways other than reaching for your iPhone. Voice commands, gestures and touch controls could all come into play in calling up laser-projected information though artificial intelligence.

Another device represented in the patent applications appears to be a wearable that helps women keep track of their menstrual cycles. The system could help improve couples’ chances of achieving — or avoiding — pregnancy and assist with women’s health issues.

Check out the patent applications:

  1. Wearable Multimedia Device and Cloud Computing Platform with Application Ecosystem
  2. Wearable Multimedia Device and Cloud Computing Platform with Laster Projection System
  3. Portable Battery Pack for Wirelessly Charging Body-Worn Devices through Clothing
  4. System and Apparatus for Fertility and Hormonal Cycle Awareness

“I think it’s fair to say that humane is taking a radical approach to building technologies that are meant to enhance the human experience, not detract from it,” Sheffer said, while also noting he has no idea when any products from Humane might appear.

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