Facebook is working on a smart watch, AR controller hybrid

Published on 10 Jun 2021

According to reporting by The Verge, Facebook is working on its own smartwatch. The watch will eventually even work as a controller for its AR glasses. The information was given to the website by anonymous sources working on the project. Since the story's release, Facebook's vice president of augmented reality and virtual reality, Andrew Bosworth, confirmed that the company is working on such a device but cautioned that it was still in the research stage and may never be released to the public. 

See also: Current Fossil Watches Will Not Receive New Version of Wear OS

More about Facebook's smartwatch

Facebook is working on a smartwatch-like device that will have a digital display, two cameras, and a heart rate monitor. One of the cameras will be located on the face of the display and will function mostly for video calls. The display will be detachable and the second camera can be used to take videos, pictures, etc. Facebook plans to work with other companies on accessories that will allow the detachable display to be connected to other items like a backpack, headrest, etc.

The company plans to work with leading LTE service providers so that the watch can work by itself and will not require pairing with a phone. It will also have fitness device functionalities as it will be equipped with a heart rate monitor. The long-term plan is for the smartwatch to function as a controller for Facebook's planned augmented reality glasses. Facebook acquired technology from CTRL-labs that can be used to control a computer via wrist movements. This technology will be used to implement the AR control features into the watch. In his statement via Twitter, Bosworth said, "We’ve said we want AR glasses to be truly useful—we’re investing in technologies across the board that will make that interaction feel more natural and intuitive. This includes research like EMG, haptics, adaptive interfaces that could come together in a wrist-based form factor." It is interesting to note that Bosworth does not use the term 'smartwatch' in his statement, instead mentions a 'wrist-based form factor'.

Why Facebook may want to make its own smartwatch?

Facebook has long had plans to build its own writ wearable device. In 2019 it considered acquiring fitness band company, Fitbit which was eventually bought by Google. So far Facebook has invested around $1 billion on the first iteration of its smartwatch. Most noteworthy is the fact that Facebook's new device will work independently of user's smartphones. This will be an effective way for Facebook to connect with people without the need to go through Apple or Google. Data has for a long time been at the core of Facebook's ability to generate revenue. The company has not had the best reputation for how it handles user privacy and data. Recently both Google and Apple have made changes to the way their smartphone OSs operate in order to increase data privacy. Apple in particular has been highly focused on privacy protection and increasing transparency about data being collected from iPhones. Facebook and Apple have butted heads over the past two years over the latter's privacy policies. Having a device that users use without going through iOS or Android would be a strategic move for Facebook's long-term health.

Facebook's AR glasses

Facebook has been working on its augmented reality glasses for some time now. In June last year the company confirmed that it was developing its own AR software in order to get the best performance and efficiency from its AR glasses. The goal is to provide users with an immersive experience when using the glasses. This means controlling them should be intuitive. In the past Facebook even considered the glasses being controlled by a glove. It was rumored that the glasses would be released sometime in 2020. However, according to the company's latest announcements they will release the first RayBan AR glasses sometime in 2021 with half the year already behind us that window is getting smaller.

When will Facebook release its smartwatch?

According to current reports, Facebook's smartwatch will be released in the summer of next year. However, continuing his statement on Twitter, Andrew Bosworth cautioned that the device may never be released to the public, "Research doesn't always lead to product development. Productizing these forms of input - for AR glasses or other - happens on parallel paths and in multiple iterations." Since the device does not even have a name yet, it is very possible that Facebook may choose to scrap the entire idea.

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