Facebook Parent Meta pauses development of Apple Watch rival with two cameras

Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc. has paused development of smartwatches with dual cameras.

Facebook’s parent company is Meta Platforms Inc. has paused development on dual-camera smartwatches and is instead working on other devices for the wrist, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The device, which has been in development for at least two years, is designed to include a number of features common in other smartwatches, including activity tracking, music playback, and messaging. A prototype of the now-paused device includes dual cameras, a key differentiator from market leaders like the Apple Watch. One camera is located below the display and another is located on the back relative to the wearer’s wrist, according to images and video of a prototype seen by Bloomberg.

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The second camera is designed so that the user can remove the watch face from the band to quickly take a photo. But the presence of the camera caused problems with another feature that translates nerve signals from the wrist into digital commands, the person said. It’s likely that that technique, called electromyography, is a priority for Meta.

Meta has advertised the benefits of electromyography as a way of using one’s hand as a “controller” for other devices, including those geared towards the metaverse. “This is about decoding those signals at your wrist – actions you’ve decided to take – and translating them into digital commands for your device,” a blog post published by Meta reads. version earlier this year said.

Meta executives discussed the potential of smartwatches as part of their vision for the so-called metaverse, an immersive version of the internet where people will interact with other people. another use as a digital avatar. For example, sensors in wearables could be used to help people control their avatar or interact with what they observe through a pair of augmented reality glasses.

Although the dual camera device has been discontinued, Meta is still working on many other wearables. The person said the employees working on the watch, codenamed Milan, were told this week that the device is no longer in production. It was initially targeted for a spring 2023 release with a price tag of around $349, they added.

A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment.

Cost-cutting may also have played a role in the company’s decision to discontinue watch development. Meta executives said during an earnings call in April that the company’s annual costs would drop by $3 billion this year due to a widespread business downturn. That has also affected hiring at Meta, where filling some management roles has been halted or slowed down in recent months. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors at the time, cutting costs means prioritizing certain projects and efforts over others.

This week, Meta also told employees that it would not be selling a version of the AR glasses that had been in development for three years, the person said. The company has shifted focus to newer versions of those AR glasses, with plans for a commercial release eventually. The Information previously reported details of the changes to Meta’s glasses strategy.

Meta will also change its video calling strategy. The portal, which was initially marketed with consumer tools like animated storytime for kids, will be geared towards business customers who work from their home offices.

Some of the features developed for dual-camera watches may still appear in future products. The prototype device seen by Bloomberg has the following features:

  • Removable watch face with bronze gold case. The case has two buttons on the side, including a long pill-shaped button and a small circular control button.
  • Dual cameras: A 5-megapixel camera on the front of the watch face and a 12-megapixel camera on the back of the watch for use when the watch face is detached.
  • WiFi, GPS and cellular connectivity via eSIM.
  • Apps for Spotify, WhatsApp, Instagram Stories, daily activity tracking, workouts, photo gallery, heart rate monitor, calendar, settings and breathing rate.
  • Battery life 18 hours.

The watch also includes a notification center and lock screen. The device doesn’t have a built-in App Store, and instead, users manage apps and features from their Facebook account. Wearers can also post details about their fitness activities or achievements directly to Facebook and Instagram from the device.

An image of the prototype first appeared inside Meta’s app for managing Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and was published by Bloomberg last year. Some previous details of the device were also reported by The Verge earlier.

The Milan smartwatch is being developed by Meta’s Reality Labs division, a division of the company that works on long-term bets and metaverse construction. Zuckerberg has said that while Reality Labs is an important area of ​​investment for the company, those expenditures will cut profits and lead to “significant” financial losses in the short term.

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