It seems odd that, at a time when more questions are being raised about Facebook's influence on the world, and how the company uses people's personal data insights to largely intensify their fears and concerns in order to drive interaction, the company is also suggesting that we integrate more Facebook into more aspects of our daily lives, with the goal of a better future.
That may not seem like the most logical connection, but it's where we're at, with new photographs of Facebook's upcoming smartwatch project, which will technically be a Meta project rather than a Facebook one. If it makes a difference at all.
As seen in this image from Facebook's 'View' app for their Ray Ban Stories smartglasses, the smartwatch will look very similar to an Apple Watch, with the addition of a front-facing camera on the primary screen.
Bloomberg puts it this way:
“The photo shows a watch with a screen and casing that’s slightly curved at the edges. The front-facing camera - similar to what you’d see on a smartphone - appears at the bottom of the display, and there’s a control button for the watch on the right side.”
The device will have two cameras, and users will be able to detach the watch face to snap images and videos on the go, according to prior descriptions of Facebook's smartwatch, as reported by The Verge in June.
"A camera on the front of the watch display exists primarily for video calling, while a 1080p, auto-focus camera on the back can be used for capturing footage when detached from the stainless steel frame on the wrist.”
The image and description are the same, and the project is intended to combine Facebook's ongoing research into using wrist muscle motions as a control mechanism in digital surroundings.
In his Connect presentation this week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was eager to show off.
All of this appears to be nice and interesting, and a less intrusive control device will undoubtedly be required to make use of the company's upcoming AR and VR capabilities, since users will not want to put on VR gloves every time they want to do one of these things.
However, there is a question whether Facebook – or Meta – can be trusted in this regard, and whether we should believe that the company has managed to learn from its previous mistakes and will be able to provide a far more immersive, and thus far more harmful, experience for users in this new digital realm.
Because, while Facebook's technological advancements and presentations appear to be impressive, if it is able to deliver on even a portion of the promise it has demonstrated, it will arouse a lot of attention. Even still, as the recent 'Facebook Files' revelations have revealed, Facebook's systems have huge faults, whether intentionally built or not, that will only become more harmful as they take up even more of your attention and mental space.
Consider the recent revelation that Instagram is damaging to young girls; you'd have to believe such dangers would be increased in a completely immersive social environment. Of course, Meta will try to reframe this by advocating the usage of avatars rather than your real appearance, reducing the personal implications of such a procedure. Will it, however, succeed? People can still be targeted for reasons other than physical characteristics, and if this occurs in what is expected to become your primary social place, it will have a greater impact.
Part of the reason for this is Facebook's persistent 'glass half full' attitude toward its capabilities, as tech journalist Kara Swisher pointed out in an interview with Intelligencer earlier this week:
“When they were debuting Facebook Live, I had a million questions about abuse. And they were like, “What are you talking about?” It was so typical. It wasn’t [Zuckerberg], but it was his people - people who were like him who just reflect him. They were like, “You’re such a bummer, Kara.” And I’m like, “Okay, I’m a bummer, I guess, but I think someone’s going to kill someone on this thing and broadcast it.” And it didn’t take long before there was a mass murder on it. The idea of consequences seems to escape them almost entirely because most of them have never had an unsafe day in their lives.”
This is characteristic of most of Facebook's efforts, with the company's employees focusing on the incredible benefits while overlooking the potential damages and consequences.
In a lecture to Georgetown University in 2019, Zuckerberg echoed this sentiment, discussing the company's approach to political expression, including its choice not to censor political leaders' views.
“I don’t think we need to lose our freedom of expression to realize how important it is. I think people understand and appreciate the voice they have now. At some fundamental level, I think most people believe in their fellow people too.”
Despite years of problems with hate speech, abuse, and misinformation, Zuckerberg remains convinced that people are inherently good, and that providing them with more tools to communicate can only be beneficial.
We all know that this isn't always the case, and that there should be safeguards and mechanisms in place to prevent people from abusing such systems. Which Facebook has been developing over time and may now be in a better position to execute in the emerging metaverse sector. But I wouldn't bet on it, and given the platform's past, I'm not sure I'd trust Zuck and co. to have considered all the ramifications of more immersive interactions.
However, that was Facebook, and this is Meta. Right? The two are distinct, with the Meta branding allowing for a new perspective.
And now Facebook wants to be in your house, on your wrist, overlaid over your real-world perspective, and even become your entire interactive space, capturing more of your day-to-day experience in ever-increasing ways.
It looks fantastic, and Zuckerberg's vision of the future of connectivity appears to have a lot of promise. Is Facebook, on the other hand, truly prepared to help with this next step?