Meta has stopped developing a smartwatch with two built-in cameras, Bloomberg reports. The device – codenamed “Milan” – was reportedly slated for release in Spring 2023 at a price of around $349. Technical issues, as well as general cost savings at Meta, are reportedly behind the cancellation. The existence of the watch was previously reported by The edge last year.
Most smartwatches, including the Apple Watch, currently have no cameras at all, so Meta had hoped the presence of not one, but two cameras could differentiate its wearable in a competitive market. The first would have been a 5 megapixel front camera in a small notch for use with video calls, while a 12 megapixel camera underneath would be used to take photos and capture video when the watch was detached from the wrist.
Meta reportedly had issues with this second camera, which interferes with the watch’s ability to pick up nerve signals from the wrist. That’s important, because Meta had hoped that the device would not only serve as a regular smartwatch, but also act as a controller for separate augmented reality (AR) glasses and other metaverse initiatives. In a blog post last year, Meta talked about using wrist-mounted devices to pick up nerve signals and use them as digital inputs using a technique known as electromyography.
“The signals from the wrist are so clear that EMG [electromyography] can understand finger movements as small as a millimeter. That means input can be effortless. Ultimately, it may even be possible to just feel the intent to move a finger,” the company wrote at the time.
The wearable is also said to be packed with typical smartwatch features like GPS, cellular connectivity, activity tracking, music playback and integration with meta-services like WhatsApp and Instagram. The team had hoped that the watch would last 18 hours when the battery was charged. Since last year, Meta was also looking to collaborate with other companies to build accessories for the watch that would allow it to be attached to, for example, backpacks to use as a camera.
Although the development of the watch has been discontinued, Bloomberg reports that Meta is still working on several other wrist-based devices. It’s part of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring more proprietary hardware to consumers, as well as reduce reliance on users having to go through Apple and Google to use his services.