Last year, we reported that Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook Inc.) was working on its first smartwatch with two built-in cameras to take on competitors like Apple.
Now, a new report from Bloomberg suggests that the company has halted the development of its first smartwatch due to technical issues and cost-cutting. The device was reportedly in development for two years under the codename ‘Milan’.
According to a prototype of the Meta smartwatch seen by Bloomberg, the device had two detachable cameras. It featured a 5MP front-facing camera for video calling along with a 12MP camera on the back for capturing photos and videos when detached from the frame on the wrist.
Reportedly, the camera at the back was interfering with the watch’s ability to translate nerve alerts from the wrist into digital instructions, a feature which is known as electromyography (EMG), a person aware of the developments told Bloomberg.
The electromyography technology is Meta’s top priority, as it wants to transform a person’s hands into a controller for other devices, as well as use it to interact with its Metaverse by controlling virtual items or an avatar with hands.
“This is about decoding those signals at the wrist — the actions you’ve already decided to perform — and translating them into digital commands for your device,” the company said in a blog post earlier this year.
“It’s located right next to the primary instruments you use to interact with the world — your hands. This proximity would allow us to bring the rich control capabilities of your hands into AR, enabling intuitive, powerful, and satisfying interaction.”
The detachable smartwatch face had a gold casing, with two buttons on the side similar to Apple Watch. It also had several smartphone features such as messaging, heart rate monitor, music playback, photo gallery, GPS, cellular connectivity with eSIM support, Wi-Fi, activity tracking, calendar, settings, and breathing. The device would have reportedly lasted for 18 hours.
Popular apps such as Spotify, WhatsApp, and Instagram were also integrated into the smartwatch. While Apple Watch users manage their apps through their iPhone, the Meta smartwatch users would have managed all the possible apps through their Facebook accounts.
Besides the technical issues, general cost-cutting is also likely to have played a role in the decision to halt the development of the smartwatch, suggests the report. The smartwatch was originally scheduled to arrive in spring 2023 and cost around $349.
Although the project is halted, the company is still working on other devices for the wrist, which means we could see Meta using the smartwatch features and even some of the technology in its future wearable devices.