Facebook WearOS watch patent shows detachable display

A patent has emerged which shows how the detachable display on Facebook watch might work. This is a rumoured WearOS device with messaging, health and fitness features and multiple cameras. It is set to land in the Summer of 2022.

The first information on the timepiece was published at the start of 2021 in an article by The Information. This quotes four “people with direct knowledge of the device”. Apparently, the device represents the search giant’s effort to gain an entry into what is expected to be one of the next computing platforms after smartphones.


Facebook smartwatch – what we know

Social media has come to play a central role in many people’s lives. For better or worse, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they are not going away anytime soon.

Most smartwatches come with some sort of social media integration. Typically this ends with app notifications on your wrist. But things may change soon.

Facebook is looking to come out with a smartwatch of its own. Apparently, the device will initially run on Google’s Wear OS. At a later stage this will be replaced with Facebook’s proprietary operating system for hardware devices.

As you’d expect, such a watch will have messaging features and tight social media integration. For example, functionality is set to include “quick interactions” with other Facebook users.

The social media giant’s device will also pack health and fitness features. But this may go beyond the typical sensors.

Facebook has a health technology patent that was registered recently. It is about incorporating EMG (Electromyography) sensors into wearables. For those not in the know, EMG is a process for detecting and processing the electrical signals generated by muscle activity. However, the patent is more about using the tech to control content displayed on electronic displays than health.

The company has also acquired the neural interface startup CTRL-Labs back in 2019.

“Bigger picture to this watch: FB bought CTRL-labs for roughly $1b in 2019, which was making an armband that can interpret brain signals to control computer interfaces. FB hopes to eventually build that tech into the watch to control its future AR glasses.” writes Alexa Health from The Information.

All of this hints that the device will not just be about smart functionality and integration with social media. And that it will be very different from the current crop of smartwatches.

Two cameras – one detacheable for photo and video taking

The Verge has added some information of its own. They spoke to two people familiar with the project who chose to remain annonomous.

According to these sources, the upcoming watch will feature two cameras. The camera located on the front of the watch display is meant for video calls. Another camera will be positioned on the back. That one is detacheable and comes with 1080p, auto-focus for capturing quality photo and video footage.

The idea here is to have a watch that users will be able to utilize for media capturing and sharing on Facebook and Instagram. Sources say that other companies will be encouraged to create accessories for things like packpacks for attaching the camera.

This is partially confirmed by the first image of the watch. It was found back in October inside the company’s iPhone app for controlling its newly launched Ray-Ban glasses.

The picture shows a device with rounded edges and a front-facing camera at the bottom of the display. Presumably, that’s the one for video calls. There’s a single physical button on the device that can be seen on the right-hand side and possibly another one at the top of the case.

The Facebook watch also has what looks to be a detachable wrist strap. The display appears to be very large and the device itself is more about functionality than style.


How the detachable display would work

Now we have some more information which suggests broader functionality of the cameras. LetsGoDigital, has uncovered patent information that also reveals how this detachable functionality would work. The 49 page document was filed in June 2021 with WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). The patent was approved and published January 13th.

The filing reveals a circular and square version of the watch. Both are pretty much the same in terms of functionality.

For the round model, the display (together with the camera) is electrically connected and held in place by strong magnets, so is fully detachable. This has what is referred to as a “first camera”. You can swap it around with another display which has a “second camera with distinct lenses”. A user can then, via the rotation mechanism choose different camera lenses, i.e. prime telephoto lens, wide angle lens, optical zoom lens and fisheye lens. Rotation can be done both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Meta smartwatch

The square model would work in a similar way. But while the round-faced version has five fixed positions for the display, the square watch has four.

Meta smartwatch square

In addition to photo, video taking and making video calls, the cameras can be used for AR / VR / MR purposes. This is the primary reason for including multiple lenses as it offers possibilities in the field of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. The ultimate aim is for the watch to also work in conjunction with other VR / AR systems, such as a head mounted display (HMD) or smart glasses. Facebook has not made secret its huge ambitions in this area.

Beyond that, the watch will have a heart rate sensor, a body temperature sensor, an infrared meter, motion sensor and activity recognition sensors. The list suggests some pretty decent fitness tracking smarts.


Our take on a possible Facebook watch

This is not Facebook’s first venture into hardware. It acquired Oculus in 2014 so has a significant presence in the virtual reality consumer headset space. Then there are its Portal devices which offer video chat with Alexa integration. Finally, Facebook also brought to the market Ray-Ban branded smart glasses recently.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Do we really need a watch from Facebook? Perhaps not, but it looks like we are getting one. It seems the upcoming device will go further than simply providing deep Facebook integration. Which is a good thing. The documentation released so far suggests a focus on alternative and virtual reality. Which fits perfectly with the company’s motto to build a metaverse – a shared virtual world.

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