What you need to know
- A proposed smartwatch idea from Meta, long in development, has now been canceled.
- The device would have featured two cameras and sensors for controlling metaverse experiences
- Development has now rumored to have moved on to other wrist-based devices.
You may be sitting pretty with an Apple Watch Series 7 on your wrist, or quietly awaiting the unveiling of the rumored Apple Watch Series 8, but Meta (née Facebook) had, until recently, other plans for your wrist. It's been revealed that an Apple Watch rival from Meta, long in development, has now been canceled after two years of testing.
The device would have offered many similar functions to an Apple Watch, from delivering notifications to offering fitness tracking and heart-monitoring expertise, but would have differed in a number of key ways, according to Bloomberg. While integration into the wider Facebook ecosystem was a given (with app installations and downloads handled by an off-device Facebook account), its key differentiating factor would have been not one, but two wrist-mounted camera modules.
A front-facing camera, presumably for taking selfies and video calls, would have offered a 5MP resolution. But an even more intriguing rear camera, coming in at 12MP, would have been accessible by releasing the watch face from its strap, and using its screen as a viewfinder – something that even the Best Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 7 doesn't currently offer, even if Apple has explored the idea in patent form previously.
Apps such as Spotify, WhatsApp, and Instagram stories had already been developed for the watch, codenamed Milan, which had initially been expected to land next spring at around the $349 mark. But it now appears that the company has moved on to other wrist-based device ideas instead.
A metaverse controller?
A key problem that Meta apparently wrestled with while developing the Milan smartwatch was how to stop the camera system from interfering with the device's electromyography sensors.
These sensors are used to track and translate nerve signals from the wrist, and their presence in the Milan was thought to be part of a wider push from Meta to find more naturalistic control methods for VR and AR 'metaverse' experiences. These could, potentially, let a user control digital experiences tied to other devices, like a VR headset or glasses, without needing to hold a secondary controller, leading to a more intuitive way to interact with digital worlds.
While Apple Watch remains the top choice for smartwatch aficionados then, especially with all the new innovations from watchOS 9 on the way as seen at this week's WWDC 2022 conference, Meta's protoytypes show that there's still innovation to be found in the smartwatch space. If Apple really is considering entering the VR and AR market with hardware and its rumored RealityOS operating system, looking for innovative ways to bring other wearable devices into the experience, as Meta is exploring, could be key to their success.
There's always Amazon
The newest flagship Apple Watch
Bigger, brighter, slightly better
You can buy the Apple Watch from Amazon if you prefer. Just remember you may be limited to only certain band combinations and models on Amazon. Plus, it's possible they will have less stock than buying from Apple directly.
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Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 14 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system.
Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar, Space.com, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews, Mirror.co.uk, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.