Meta has canceled development on its longtime rival Apple Watch: a smartwatch that would have been equipped with two cameras.
According to Bloomberg, Meta has decided to shift its focus from smartwatch to other wrist-based devices. This is likely another move by Meta to consolidate its efforts to create a metaverse, while also trying to cut about $3 billion in expenses this year.
Meta’s smartwatch may have been the company’s first, but based on what we’ve heard, it wouldn’t have been a lazy Apple Watch clone. Of course, leaked reports and a prototype suggest it would have the fitness features, music playback support and messaging services you’d expect, but it would also house two cameras.
The most sensible of these would have been under the watch screen – likely used for video calling so the user can see and be seen by whoever is talking. The second camera made much less sense; it would have been positioned underneath the camera facing the user’s wrist.
Unless you were at incredible image quality, or you were in a niche situation, we can’t see why anyone would fiddle with a clock to turn it on and off and not just pull out the smartphone they’re probably carrying.
This camera apparently also caused problems with other watch functions, such as electromyography – a system that could translate nerve signals from the wrist into digital commands.
Despite the clock being cancelled, it is expected to live on through electromyography.
Rather than being a dedicated smartwatch, Meta will likely create an electromyography-based controller for its upcoming VR headsets – headsets like the Project Cambria and Meta Quest 3. blog post last year (opens in new tab).
Such a device would likely rival Valve Index controllers – which offer much more realistic hand movements than those available in Quest 2.
But much more interesting are the accessibility options that this controller can bring.
Amputees or those who cannot move their hands or arms for various reasons cannot enter VR as it exists now due to the way controllers are designed. This can change with an electromyography-based controller.
As Meta explained in the same blog post above, the ultimate goal is to be able to “just feel the intention to move a finger”. You won’t need to move a real-world hand, you just need to think about doing it. The same approach has been used by researchers to give amputees control over robotic arms and hands.
At the moment, the technology is a little too bulky for the mass market, but scientists have shown that the idea is certainly possible.
So we’ll probably be waiting a while for Meta’s wrist-based controller, but when it finally shows up, it could revolutionize the way we can interact with VR.