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More information has emerged about Facebook's potential new wearable. According to The Verge, the social media company is developing a new smartwatch that includes two cameras, which customers can use to upload photos to social media.
The wearable is also expected to have at least one health feature: a heart rate monitor. Verge sources report that the Palo Alto company invested $1 billion to develop the watch and compete with Apple and Google.
The new information was in line with previous reports that the device will include a cellular connection and doesn't need to be tethered to a smartphone. The tool is expected to cost in the $400 range with an expected Summer 2022 release.
In a response to the inital Verge story Andrew Bosworth, Head of Facebook Reality Labs Tweeted: "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."
In March Facebook Reality Labs shared that it was conducting research on "wrist-based input combined with usable but limited contextualized AI, which dynamically adapts to you and your environment." A wrist wearable could include a platform for commputing, a battery and support sensors. As Bosworth mentioned in his Tweet, the labs are looking into the use of EMGs.
"EMG — electromyography — uses sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist to the hand into digital commands that you can use to control the functions of a device. These signals let you communicate crisp one-bit commands to your device, a degree of control that’s highly personalizable and adaptable to many situations," the report reads.
This type of technology could enable a sort of augmented reality, where the user would be able to control virutal images with minimal movement.
WHY IT MATTERS
This new wearable would put Facebook in direct competition with Apple, Google and Amazon. Apple rolled out its first smartwatch in 2014. Since then it has added scores of features including numerous health functions. In 2018 the company made headlines when it landed FDA clearance for its built-in ECG.
Google really sunk its teeth into the space when it announced its plans to acquire Fitbit in 2019. The $2.1 billion deal finally closed in 2021 after being held up by regulatory probes, including a full-scale investigation from the European Commission.
As far as wearables go, Amazon is a relative newcomer to the space. Last Summer the online retailer announced the Amazon Halo, a wrist health tracker that can track activity, temperature and heart rate.
From the Verge report, it appears Facebook is angling for its wearable to do the job of smartphones, including having that social media function.
THE LARGER TREND
Facebook has primarily remained a software-focused company over the years. However, it did purchase the virtual reality headset Oculus. Later Facebook announced Ray-Bans-branded smart glasses that will be available later in the year and has been upfront about its work on an augmented reality project called Project Aria.
While Facebook hasn't had a wearable before, it has dipped into healthcare. Throughout the pandemic, the company worked with public health agencies to help update COVID-19 information, as well as implementing a vaccine finder tool.