Apparently unsatiated by hoovering up users’ personal data on its platforms, Facebook’s hoping to get its mitts on their health data as well. The company’s reportedly building a smartwatch as its next foray into hardware, and the device could debut as soon as next year, according to a Friday report from the Information.
The smartwatch is said to run on Android, though it’s unclear whether it will use Google’s Wear OS as Facebook is reportedly trying to build its own operating system for future hardware ventures, according to people with direct knowledge of the device who spoke with the outlet under the condition of anonymity. The watch will reportedly access the internet via a cellular connection, so no smartphone needed, and have messaging, health, and fitness features.
Naturally, all of these features will boast baked-in compatibility with Facebook’s existing platforms, as the company is undoubtedly looking to leverage its vast social network to get an edge over Fitbit, Apple, and other titans in the smartwatch space. The device will let users track their workouts with friends, get in touch with their trainer, and offer some kind of quick chat feature without having to pick up a smartphone. Down the road, Facebook also plans to makes its devices compatible with health and fitness products from companies like Peloton, as well as launch versions capable of interacting with Facebook’s future devices, like the line of augmented reality glasses it’s reportedly cooking up.
Facebook aims to debut the first version of its smartwatch by next year, with plans for a second-generation rolling out as soon as 2023, one person briefed on the timeline told the Information. While the report didn’t get into specific price points, it claims “Facebook is expected to sell its watch near the cost to produce it,” which is a tactic the company’s used with its Oculus virtual reality headsets.
Per the Information, Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said at an all-hands meeting for employees in December that the company planned to continue its push into hardware and increase its investments in wearable devices. The smartwatch would join Facebook’s growing hardware ecosystem, which includes its Oculus VR headsets and Portal video-streaming devices along with several rumored projects purportedly in the works. Facebook did not immediately answer Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll update this blog when they do.
Given Facebook’s track record of privacy missteps, this newest venture seems like a disaster waiting to happen. The company’s dropped so many red flags over the years to indicate that forking over your health data to them is a very dumb idea. If this smartwatch does end up seeing the light of day (the report said that development’s pretty far along, but Facebook could still can the project), I give it two or three months before the scandalous headlines start rolling in followed by Facebook issuing yet another half-hearted apology.