Facebook Finally Explains Its Mysterious Wrist Wearable
IT FIRST APPEARED on March 9 as a tweet on Andrew Bosworth’s timeline, the tiny corner of the internet that offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a Facebook executive these days. Bosworth, who leads Facebook’s augmented and virtual reality research labs, had just shared a blog post outlining the company’s 10-year vision for the future of human-computer interaction. Then, in a follow-up tweet, he shared a photo of an as yet unseen wearable device. Facebook’s vision for the future of interacting with computers apparently would involve strapping something that looks like an iPod Mini to your wrist.
Facebook already owns our social experience and some of the world’s most popular messaging apps—for better or notably worse. Anytime the company dips into hardware, then, whether that’s a very good VR headset or a video chatting device that follows your every move, it gets noticed. And it not only sparks intrigue, but questions too: Why does Facebook want to own this new computing paradigm?
In this case, the unanswered questions are less about the hardware itself and more about the research behind it—and whether the new interactions Facebook envisions will only deepen our ties to Facebook. (Answer: probably.) In a media briefing earlier this week, Facebook executives and researchers offered an overview of this tech. In simplest terms, Facebook has been testing new computing inputs using a sensor-filled wrist wearable.
It’s an electromyography device, which means it translates electrical motor nerve signals into digital commands. When it’s on your wrist, you can just flick your fingers in space to control virtual inputs, whether you’re wearing a VR headset or interacting with the real world. You can also “train” it to sense the intention of your fingers, so that actions happen even when your hands are totally still.