A smart watch with two cameras from a company with a dubious reputation for using private data – isn’t that what every modern user dreams of? It is unlikely that we will ever know, because the parent company Facebook Meta Platforms Inc. has stopped developing its smartwatch with two cameras and is working on other wrist devices instead, writes Bloomberg.
The device, which has been in development for at least two years, was designed to include several features common in other smartwatches, including activity tracking, music playback and messaging. A prototype of the now halted device includes dual-cameras, a key differentiator from market leaders like the Apple Watch. One camera was located below the display and another sat on the backside against the wearer’s wrist, according to images and video of a prototype seen by Bloomberg.
The second camera was designed so users could remove the watch face from its strap to quickly take pictures. But the presence of the camera caused issues with another feature for translating nerve signals from the wrist into digital commands, the person said. Having that technical ability, known as electromyography, is a top priority for Meta.
Meta advertised the benefits of electromyography as a way to use human hands as a “controller” for other devices, including the metaverse. “It’s about decoding signals on your wrist – actions you’ve already decided to take – and converting them into digital commands for your device,” said a blog post from Meta earlier this year.
Meta managers discussed the potential of smartwatches as part of their vision of the so-called “metaverse”, a virtual version of the Internet where people will interact with other users as digital avatars. For example, sensors in wrist devices can be used to help control your avatar or interact with what they observe through augmented reality glasses.
Although the development of the dual-camera device has been suspended, Meta is still working on several other devices that can be worn on the wrist. Employees working on the watch, codenamed Milan, were told this week that the device was no longer ready for production. They added that it was originally planned to be released in the spring of 2023 at a price of about $349.
Reducing costs probably also played a role in the company’s decision to stop developing the watch. Meta executives said in a conversation about earnings in April that the company’s annual costs would fall by $3 billion this year due to a wider business slowdown. It has also affected hiring at Meta, where some management roles have been suspended or delayed in recent months. Overall cost cuts mean prioritizing certain projects and efforts over others, then-CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors.
Some features designed for the Meta watch are likely to appear in future products. The prototype device has the following features:
- Golden body, detachable from the strap with frame. The watch has two buttons on the side;
- Two cameras: 5-megapixel on the front of the dial and 12-megapixel on the back of the watch for use when the case is detached from the strap;
- Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular connection via eSIM;
- Apps for Spotify, WhatsApp, Instagram Stories, daily activity tracking, workouts, photo gallery, heart rate monitoring, calendar, settings and breathing;
- Up to 18 hours battery life.
The device should not have a built-in app store, and users were expected to manage apps and watch features from their Facebook account. Users would also post details of their fitness activities or achievements directly on Facebook and Instagram.
The Milan smartwatch was developed by Meta Reality Labs, part of a company that works on long-term rates and creates a metaverse. Zuckerberg said that while Reality Labs is a key investment area for the company, these costs will reduce profits and lead to “significant” financial losses for the unit in the short term.