Development of Meta’s strong Apple Watch competitor has been put on hold for now

Almost exactly a year ago to the day, we told you that Facebook (now Meta) had invested nearly a billion dollars to develop a smartwatch that would be released in the Summer of 2022. Said to be made of stainless steel, the expected price of $400 indicated that the device would be made to compete against the Apple Watch. A modular design would allow the display to be detachable and dual cameras would allow users to send photos to Facebook or Instagram.

According to a prototype seen by Bloomberg, one camera was found below the display with the other on the back against the wearer’s wrist. While that second camera placement seems odd, users could remove the watch face from the strap quickly to take pictures with that rear camera. But that placement prevented the device from being able to translate nerve signals from the wrist into digital commands.
This technology, known as electromyography, is at the top of Meta’s to-do list. The company has promoted the use of electromyography as a way to use a person’s hands as a “controller.” Meta says that “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 watch would also track users’ activities, play music, and engage in messaging. And the smartwatch was going to be one of the devices that would help people interact with each other in the metaverse where people mingle as digital avatars.

Employees working on the watch, codenamed Milan, were reportedly told that the development of the watch has been halted. The timepiece was supposedly going to be released next spring for $349.

The prototype seen by Bloomberg included the following features:

  • A removable watch face with a gold-colored casing. There are two buttons on the side, one a long pill-shaped button and the other a small circular one.
  • A 5MP camera on the front of the watch, and a 12MP rear-facing camera for use when the screen is detached.
  • Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell connectivity via eSIM.
  • 18 hours of battery life.
  • Apps for Spotify, WhatsApp, Instagram Stories, daily activity tracking, workouts, the photo gallery, heart rate monitoring, calendar, settings, and breathing.
While the watch had no app store, users would be able to manage apps through their Facebook account and some details of the user’s activities would have been sent to Facebook using the timepiece. The watch was being developed by Meta’s Reality Labs, the part of the company building the metaverse. While it is still a key part of Meta, the expenditures of this group will result in red ink for the foreseeable future resulting in “significant” financial losses to Meta in the short term.
With Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature allowing the vast majority of iPhone users to opt out of being tracked for online ads, Meta needs to be smart concerning how it spends its money.

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