Meta abandons Facebook Portal project and smartwatch development

Extending its aggressive restructuring campaign in which more than 11,000 employees have gone home, Meta looks set to make further cost cuts by dropping its Facebook Portal product range and smartwatch development.

Highly controversial in the way they “break into” users’ homes, collecting all sorts of information about them while providing voice-activated assistance services, Facebook Portal devices have achieved rather modest sales when compared to the huge investment Meta has made with their development. In fact, Meta stopped shipping Facebook Portal as early as the middle of this year, with the company in the middle of the year saying that it would stop offering hardware to consumers.

In the midst of an online privacy scandal, Facebook launched two smart displays permanently connected to the internet, posing as home communication devices. Facebook Portal includes photo/video cameras and microphones to connect users via video calls, as well as control smart devices in the home via Amazon Alexa. The former is a device similar to what we’ve seen in the past from Lenovo or Amazon, featuring a 10″ touchscreen and a video camera for chat. Portal+ is a 15″ device that can be used in both portrait and landscape orientation. The Portal device’s built-in video cameras can track users to keep them in the foreground during video calls via Facebook Messenger. At the same time, the microphones are constantly “listening” to what is happening in the room, waiting for voice commands that can be initiated using the “Hey Portal” line. In practice, Meta could also collect other audio information to be used for advertising purposes. The evidence for this is circumstantial and difficult to prove.

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In any case, the Facebook Portal project seems to have come to an end, with Meta coming to the conclusion that the financial effort is worth the benefits.

An even more unfortunate failure, however, could be the launch of a smartwach device, with the project failing before even delivering a single commercial product. According to rumors, the first smartwach developed by Meta was to have advanced customization options, such as the ability to detach and replace the front of the device with physical “replacement faces.” Strongly optimised for the social side, the device was to have two cameras, 5-megapixel and 12-megapixel, with the 2nd facing sideways. Apart from the main model, Meta engineers are reportedly working on two other smartwatch devices, one of which is already at an advanced stage of preparation.

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