Meta kills multiple hardware projects after massive layoffs

Image: Meta

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Meta halts development of two smartwatches and Portal devices as other cost-cutting measures follow last week’s job cuts.

Last week, Meta laid off 13% of its workforce. This equates to 11,000 employees. These are the first mass layoffs in the company’s 18-year history.

Meta executives announced new cost-cutting measures in staff meetings held as recently as Friday. As a result, the company will exit its Portal-branded video chat device business and cease two smartwatch projects, reported Reuters. The Verge later confirmed this, citing sources close to the company.

Reality Labs focuses on key areas

In June, reports circulated that Meta had internally changed the target audience for Portal devices to businesses rather than consumers. Reports also detailed that Meta had halted a smartwatch project named Milan. The unusual wearable reportedly had an expected release date of spring 2023.

Smartwatches saw increased demand during the pandemic, but fell short of sales expectations overall. According to Engadget, Meta’s CTO Andrew Bosworth said of the product’s eventual demise on Friday, “It would take so long and require so much investment to get into the enterprise segment that it seemed like the wrong way to invest time and money”.

Eine Hand trägt Metas EMG-Armbandprototyp und macht eine subtile Geste in der Luft.

A prototype of Meta’s EMG bracelet unveiled in 2021. | Image: Meta

Bosworth added that the smartwatch team will now continue to work on Meta’s AR headset, and that half of Reality Labs’ investment will go to augmented reality projects.

In October, UploadVR announced that the VR and AR division would focus on four technology platforms in the future: VR headsets, Horizon and avatars, AR headsets and neural interfaces such as the EMG bracelet unveiled in 2021.

EMG bracelet still in development despite the withdrawal of the smartwatch

Meta’s EMG Wristband is supposed to be the next revolutionary input device, converting nerve signals at the wrist into computer commands using electromyography. In this way, AR commands go from controllers with exaggerated hand gestures to micro gestures. Mark Zuckerberg presented this application scenario at Meta Connect 2022.

The EMG technology was originally intended to find its way into later iterations of Meta’s smartwatch. Now, the wristband is being independently developed and is set to appear alongside Meta’s AR Project Nazare headset, which has been pushed back to 2026 due to technical difficulties.

Bosworth said at the time that development of the EMG wearables and AR headsets continued despite the end of Milan’s smartwatch program.

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