Meta has halted development of a smartwatch with two built-in cameras, Bloomberg reports. The device — codenamed “Milan” — had reportedly been planned for release in spring 2023 at a price of around $349. Technical issues, as well as general cost-cutting at Meta, are reportedly to blame for the cancellation. The existence of the watch had previously been reported by The Verge last year.
Most smartwatches, including the Apple Watch, currently don’t feature any cameras at all, so Meta had hoped that the presence of not one but two cameras could have differentiated its wearable in a competitive market. The first would have been a 5-megapixel front-facing camera contained within a small display notch for use with video calls, while a 12-megapixel camera placed underneath would be used to take photos and capture video when the watch was detached from the wrist.
The second camera caused technical issues
Meta reportedly faced problems with this second camera, which interfered 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 just serve as a regular smartwatch, but would also be able to 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 with a technique known as electromyography.
“The signals through the wrist are so clear that EMG [electromyography] can understand finger motion of just a millimeter. That means input can be effortless. Ultimately, it may even be possible to sense just the intention to move a finger,” the company wrote at the time.
The wearable would have also been 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 the watch would offer 18 hours of battery life on a charge. As of last year, Meta was also looking to work with other companies to build accessories for the watch which would have allowed it to be attached to things like backpacks for use as a camera.
Although development of the watch has been canceled, Bloomberg reports that Meta is still working on several other wrist-based devices. It’s part of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to offer more consumer hardware of its own, and to reduce its reliance on users having to go through Apple and Google to use its services.