why Meta (Facebook) is reviewing its hardware strategy

Zone of turbulence for Meta’s strategy in terms of connected objects. Several projects see their commercialization canceled or postponed.

Meta, the new name of the Facebook group since October 2021, is reviewing the roadmap of its hardware division. While the American giant has set itself the goal of becoming a key player in virtual reality, it is carrying out a major reorganization of its activities. He is thus revising downwards his short-term ambitions for his augmented reality glasses projects, details The Information.

In the pipeline since 2018, several projects for glasses of the future were to see the light of day: a first generation in 2024, then in 2026 and finally in 2028. Meta informed its employees on Wednesday that the first version of the glasses, known under the code name “Nazare”, will not be marketed to the general public.

Developer-only glasses

Since the launch of the project, the glasses have always been intended to be distributed to developers – so that they can think about new uses – but the question of their large-scale sale was still pending.

The second version of the glasses, codenamed “Artemis”, would now be the priority. “This change means that Meta probably won’t release a version of the glasses for several years,” claims The Information.

However, the group has great ambitions for these technologies under development. According to its boss, Mark Zuckerberg, augmented reality glasses are akin to a “grail” device, which “will redefine our relationship with technology”, like the introduction of smartphones, The Verge reported in mid- april.

Pausing for the connected watch

Collateral victim of postponements of eyewear projects: the connected watch. Meta is also muting its smartwatch project, which was to have a detachable screen and dual cameras, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The detachable screen design would have made it difficult to deploy EMG (electromyography) technology, needed to control future augmented reality glasses through nerve signals. Meta would therefore be working on a new design more suited to future uses.

At the same time, Meta will redirect the uses of Portal, its range of connected screens launched in 2018, towards the professional world. If the group has tried to impose itself on the general public, its efforts have been in vain. The Menlo Park company does not communicate its sales figures. But only 800,000 Portal screens would have been sold during 2021 – a year marked by Covid-19, forcing homes and businesses to equip themselves – according to the research firm IDC and The Information.

Innovation “is not a straight line”

Andrew Bosworth, director of new technologies at Meta, reacted Thursday on Twitter.

“We will be shipping augmented reality bracelets and glasses that bring totally new technologies, like EMG, to market. The path to breakthrough products is not a straight line. case in our industry, we iterate through multiple prototypes in parallel and modify our resources as we learn.”

This hardware shift is a necessity for Meta, whose business model entirely based on targeted advertising is criticized by regulators around the world for the protection of personal data. While its growth is showing signs of weakness, coupled with a free fall in its share price since the start of 2022, Meta is seeking to secure new sources of income. But investing in virtual and augmented reality comes at a cost. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, this division caused Meta to lose nearly $3 billion – compared to a cumulative loss of $10 billion for the whole of 2021.

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