Meta halts development of Apple Watch rival with dual cameras

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Last year we reported that Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook Inc.) worked on its first smartwatch with two built-in cameras to beat competitors like Apple.

Now, a new report from Bloomberg suggests that the company has halted development of its first smartwatch due to technical difficulties and cost savings. The device was reportedly in development for two years under the code name ‘Milan’.

According to a prototype of the Meta smartwatch that Bloomberg saw, the device had two detachable cameras. It featured a 5MP front-facing camera for video calls, along with a 12MP rear-facing camera for taking photos and videos when detached from the wrist-mounted frame.

Reportedly, the rear camera interfered with the watch’s ability to convert nerve warnings from the wrist into digital instructions, a function known as electromyography (EMG), a person aware of the developments being told Bloomberg

The electromyography technology has the highest priority of Meta, as it aims to transform a person’s hands into a controller for other devices, as well as use it to interact with his 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 right next to the primary tools you use to communicate 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 watch 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 reportedly lasted 18 hours.

Popular apps such as Spotify, WhatsApp and Instagram have also been integrated into the smartwatch. While Apple Watch users manage their apps through their iPhone, the Meta smartwatch users are said to have managed all possible apps through their Facebook accounts.

In addition to the technical issues, general cost savings likely played a role in the decision to discontinue development of the smartwatch, the report suggests. The smartwatch was originally set to arrive in Spring 2023 and will cost around $349.

Although the project has been halted, the company is still working on other wrist-based devices, meaning we could see Meta use the smartwatch features and even some of the technology in its future wearables.

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