Milan: Meta halted Dual-camera Smartwatch

Meta has halted the expansion of a smartwatch with two built-in cameras. The gadget — codenamed “Milan” — had reportedly been scheduled for release in spring 2023 at around $349.

Technical problems, as well as general cost-cutting at Meta, are reported to reproach for the cancellation.

Most smartwatches, including the Apple Watch, presently don’t feature any cameras, so Meta had hoped that the sight of not one but two cameras could have distinguished its wearable in a competitive market.

The preferably would have been a 5-megapixel front-facing camera contained within a small display notch for use with video calls. In contrast, a 12-megapixel camera placed underneath would be used to take photos and capture video when the watch was detached from the wrist.

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 alerts through the wrist are so clear that EMG [electromyography] can comprehend finger motion of just a millimeter. That signifies input can be effortless. Ultimately, it may even be feasible 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. In addition, the team had hoped the watch would deliver 18 hours of battery life on a charge.

As of last year, Meta was also examining working with other companies to build supplements for the watch, which would have permitted it to be connected to things like backpacks for use as a camera.

Although the development of the watch has been canceled, Meta is still working on several other wrist-based gadgets. It’s the role of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to provide more consumer hardware of its own and reduce its reliance on users having to go through Apple and Google to use its services.

Meta has praised the benefits of electromyography as a way of employing a person’s hands as a “controller” for other gadgets, including those geared toward the metaverse. “This is about decoding those signs at the wrist — the actions you’ve already chosen to perform — and translating them into digital controls for your device,” a blog post from Meta published before this year said.

Meta administrators have discussed the potential of smartwatches as part of their vision for the so-called metaverse, an immersive rendition of the internet where individuals will interact with other users as digital avatars. Sensors within wrist devices could help people control their avatar or interact with what they watch through a duo of augmented reality glasses, for instance.

Despite the dual-camera device being suspended, Meta is still working on multiple other wrist-worn devices. The person said that employees working on the watch, codenamed Milan, were informed this week that the device is not on track for production. It was initially targeted for release in spring 2023 at a price point around $349, they added.

Cost cuts likely also recreated a role in the company’s determination to halt the development of the watch. Meta executives said on a yield call in April that the company’s annual expenses would decline by $3 billion this year, provided a broader industry slowdown.

That has also influenced hiring at Meta, where filling some management roles has been paused or slowed in recent months. General cost cutting means prioritizing specific projects and efforts over others, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg informed investors at the time.

Some of the components developed for the dual-camera watch will likely still appear in future products. For example, the prototype machine Milan, seen by Bloomberg has the following characteristics:

  • A removable watch front with a gold-colored casing, the case has two switches on the side, including a long, pill-shaped one and a miniature circular control.
  • Dual cameras: A 5-megapixel camera on the facade of the watch face and a 12-megapixel camera on the rear side of the watch for use when the beginning has been detached.
  • GPS, WiFi, and cellular connectivity through eSIM.
  • Apps for Spotify, WhatsApp, workouts, the photo gallery, heart rate monitoring, Instagram Stories, daily activity tracking, calendar, settings, and breathing

The watch also incorporates a notification center and lock screen. However, the device doesn’t have a built-in App Store, and users instead would manage apps and features from their Facebook accounts. Wearers would also have been able to publish details of their fitness activities or achievements instantly to Facebook and Instagram from the device.

A vision of the Milan prototype first appeared inside Meta’s app to manage its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and was published by Bloomberg last year.

The Milan smartwatch was being developed by Meta’s Reality Labs division, the part of the company working on long-term bets and building the metaverse. Zuckerberg has said that though Reality Labs is a key investment area for the company, those expenditures will cut into profits and result in “significant” financial losses in the short term.tec