The Facebook Watch that Watches You Back?
Facebook Technologies, AKA Meta, AKA Those Guys Who Use Your Data to Sell Advertising, AKA Those Guys Who Just Lost a Huge Load of Money, have a new patent and things may be about to get interesting in the wearables space yet again.
Yanko Design first brought this to my attention with some fun renders of what a "Meta Watch" might look like, basing their designs on a 2021 patent filed by Facebook.
It's a fun concept: a tiny touchscreen with a pair of built-in cameras to make it easy for you to make and take video calls from your watch. It's a perfect solution to the problem of not having a portable screen that fits in your... oh, wait, you already have a phone though, right? Makes you wonder what the point of this device might be then...
Meta: The Company that Never Learns
Companies like Facebook/Meta hold huge numbers of patents. They patent far more things than they ever put into production. There's no guarantee that this device, or anything like it, will ever see the light of day. Could Facebook enter the wearables market though? Almost definitely... because they never learn their lesson.
This prospective Meta watch has all the hallmarks of the typical Meta product; small concealed cameras, a GPS tracking option (alright, that's not in the patent but it's a pretty standard smart-watch component), and biometrics. That's right, just when you thought Facebook couldn't want any more data, now it wants to know if you're having a hard time climbing the stairs...
Literally the least cool a pair of Ray-Bans have ever looked
Facebook's last stab at a wearable was Facebook Glasses, a product so intrusive that the Russian FSB declared it a "spy gadget". You'd think they'd know - they are actual spies, after all. Is there any reason to expect that they would be less invasive when there's a chance to grab even more data?
Meta: The Company that Did Learn One Lesson
If there's one lesson that Facebook may have learnt, its that building your product on someone else's platform is a bad idea (unless you are a business who wants to base your marketing strategy on Facebook, in which case they will assure you that it is totally fine). Facebook took a huge financial hit recently when it revealed falling user numbers and an impact to advertising revenues linked to Apple's decision to block the tracking technologies on which Facebook relies. Where once Facebook's "mobile first" strategy was hailed as genius, its now turned into a nightmare for the company. They don't control the mobile environment, Apple and Google do, and that makes Facebook vulnerable.
Solution? Get into the hardware market and regain control of the flow of data from users to Facebook. With a simple Bluetooth link to a mobile phone, Facebook's wearable could transmit huge amounts of data (including data it previously never had to access to) direct to Facebook without interference from the mobile phone software.
Of course, a nice big juicy screen strapped to your wrist pumping out all that data is also a great way to deliver Facebook's adverts to users. Forget sliding an advert in amongst the news feed; how about an advert for a nice cold beverage just at the moment you're feeling hit and standing near the right kind of shop? A leak from Facebook back in 2017 revealed they had the capacity to target ads based on people's moods. Is it a huge leap to biometric targeting?
The Metaverse is not something that the average user is ready for and the hardware is still cumbersome and expensive. A wearable is comparatively inexpensive to make, easy to market and distribute, and could quickly become a "must-have" accessory for Instagram influencers with a voracious need to constantly share new content. In exchange, Facebook will want what it always wants - access to your data that it can use to target advertising at you.
My recommendation? Don't put Facebook's new lo-jack on your arm.