How Rabbit R1 is Challenging UX Design Norms
Jan 30, 2024
The Rabbit R1 was showcased as a standalone AI companion at CES 2024. This device supports a SIM card for phone connectivity, but it is nothing like a standard smartphone. Rabbit R1 is a company that wants to reinvent the smartphone wheel.
There are some crucial principles and design patterns it is challenging with it's new approach to apps, interactions, and overall user experience. Here is a glimpse of how it looks and works:
No standard app interfaces
The Rabbit R1 actually replaces standard android/ios apps with content focused interfaces that complete tasks in the background. So, if you want to order an Uber, giving a voice command to the R1 will set up a cab for you and show relevant information on the screen as it is. You can then interact with the device further with the built in scroll-wheel or by touch.
Here is an image of what such an interface will look like: (image credits tomsguide.com)
This reminds us mostly of Google Assistant or Siri which is already built in to your smartphone. According to the company's founders, these are straightforward interfaces meant to get things done faster and be customised for each function. As a UX designer, this is a product that has still not been used by users and properly tested in real day-to-day activities. So, this is surely a situation where we have to wait and see.
A physical scroll wheel for quick access
Apart from a small touch screen, they have included a scroll wheel in the Rabbit R1 which can be programmed to more than just scroll through pages. This could be used for navigation through menus, volume/device control, and even actions inside games. The usage is endless, but is compensating for the lack of buttons and controls on the device.
Physical buttons are not a new aspect of mobile devices. Some phones in the past came with a dedicated camera button, scroll function in the fingerprint sensor, and even modular extensions which could improve the device's functionality.
This scroll wheel comes with a quick access button on the side, which 'might' be able to be reprogrammed in the future too. For now, this button seems like more an unlock/power button.
One hand usage all the way
The Rabbit R1 definitely promotes one hand usage at every level. Since their biggest marketing tool are the AI powered voice commands, you can expect most of the tasks being done by the assistant on board. Apart from voice assistance, the physical scroll wheel adds a new way of using the device with a single finger (mostly your thumb). It also comes with smart features and is digitally minimal to allow less clutter while interacting.
However, this does come with a Big "if". For many years, users have been accustomed to using their phones in a certain way. This could be because of large display sizes, or the way most apps ask for real user feedback. This is something powered by "mental models", which are the way we perceive and think in our usual life. UX patterns are often built on such mental models after years of research and testing. Breaking the laws can often have a negative effect on usability and ease of use.
Only time will tell whether we will get accustomed to such AI powered devices or not.
The future of the Rabbit R1
While this product is still new and in its "hype" phase, the future of the Rabbit R1 seems both exciting and doubtful at the same time.
One one hand, this device really pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as cutting edge and brings new innovation to the mobile/smartphone industry. On the other hand, it brings features that can be easily implemented into any future ready smartphone.
Here is what we love:
It pushes smartphone manufacturers to bring new innovation to the industry.
The R1 seems like a fun and interactive experience for the tech-savvy.
This can be a great clutter and distraction free alternative to smartphones.
It is lightweight and easy to carry anywhere, while still being powerful.
A positive use of AI and future technologies.
It is inexpensive with no subscriptions required.
Here is what we don't like:
It isn't great for companies who want to have full-fledged apps on phones.
Little to no connectivity with current smartphones.
It can easily be replaced with in-built features in smartphones, eradicating the need for such a device.
It is tough to market to the general audience.
There is not much information about the company or its history.
Want to become a UX/UI design pro?
Join us for our next bootcamp and courses