Meta kills several hardware projects after mass layoffs

Meta kills several hardware projects after mass layoffs

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

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

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

Reality Labs Increases focus on core areas

In June, reports circulated that Meta internally changed the target audience of Portal devices to businesses instead of consumers. Reports also detailed that Meta discontinued a smartwatch project codenamed Milan. The unusual wearable reportedly had an intended release date in spring 2023.

The smartwatches experienced increased demand during the pandemic but fell short of sales expectations overall. According to Engadget, Meta’s chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth said Friday of the product’s eventual demise, “It would just take so long and require so much investment to get into the enterprise segment that it felt like the wrong way to invest time and money.”

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

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

Bosworth added that the smartwatch team will now continue working on Meta’s AR headset, and that half of the Reality Labs investment will go toward augmented reality projects.
In October, UploadVR reported that the VR and AR division would focus on four tech platforms going forward: VR headsets, Horizon and avatars, AR headsets, and neural interfaces such as the EMG wristband unveiled in 2021.

EMG wristband still in development despite smartwatch retreat

Meta’s EMG wristband is supposedly the next revolutionary input device, converting nerve signals at the wrist into computer commands using electromyography. In this way, AR controls move from controllers to exaggerated hand gestures to micro gestures. Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated this application scenario at Meta Connect 2022.

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

Bosworth said at the time that the development of EMG wrist wearables and AR headsets continues despite the end of the Milan smartwatch program.

Sources: Reuters, The Verge, Engadget, UploadVR