It seems a little strange that in a time where more questions are being raised about Facebook’s impact on the world, and how it uses people’s personal data insights to essentially amplify their fears and concerns, in order to drive engagement, that the company is also proposing that we incorporate more Facebook into more aspects of our daily life, with a view to a better future.
That, on the surface, doesn’t seem like the most logical connection, but that’s where we’re at, with new images being shared of Facebook’s coming smartwatch project, which will technically be a Meta project, not Facebook. If that makes much difference.
As you can see in this image, which was located in the back-end code of Facebook’s ‘View’ app for its Ray Ban Stories smartglasses, Facebook’s smartwatch will look very much like an Apple Watch, with the addition of a front-facing camera on the main screen.
As described by Bloomberg:
“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.”
That aligns with previous descriptions of Facebook’s smartwatch, with The Verge reporting back in June that the device will include two cameras, and will enable users to detach the watch face in order to take pictures and videos on the go.
“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 here and the description match up, while the project is also expected to incorporate Facebook’s evolving research into translating muscle movements from your wrist as a control tool in digital environments.
Which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was keen to show off in his Connect presentation this week.
Which seems all good, all interesting, and definitely a less intrusive control device will be needed to maximize usage of the company’s coming AR and VR tools, because people won’t want to be slipping on VR gloves every time they want to do one of these things.
But again, there’s a question over whether Facebook – or Meta – should be trusted in this respect, and that we should believe that the company has learned its lessons from past mistakes that will enable it to host a far more immersive, and in that respect, far more harmful experience for users within this new digital plain.
Because while Facebook’s technological advances and presentations look great, and if it’s able to fulfill even most of the promise that it’s shown, that will definitely pique a lot of interest. Even so, as highlighted in the recent ‘Facebook Files’ disclosures, Facebook has major flaws in its systems, intentionally created or not, which will only be even more dangerous when they take up even more of your attention and mental space.
Take, for example, the report that Instagram is harmful for young girls – you’d have to imagine those harms would be amplified in a fully immersive social space. Of course, Meta will try to re-angle this by promoting the use of avatars instead of your real image, which will lessen the personal impacts of such process. But will it? People can still be targeted for different reasons, outside of physical traits, and if that’s happening in what is envisaged to become your key social space, that’ll have to have a more significant effect.
Part of the concern in this respect is Facebook’s enduring ‘glass half full’ perspective on its tools, which tech journalist Kara Swisher highlighted 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 typical of most of the company’s projects, with Facebook’s team looking to the amazing benefits, while often missing the potential harms and impacts that could also come as a result.
Zuckerberg himself reflected the same in a speech to Georgetown in 2019, in which he discussed the company’s approach to political expression, with respect to its decision not to remove comments made by political leaders.
“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 issues with hate speech, abuse and misinformation, Zuckerberg still holds firm to this overarching belief, that people are fundamentally good, and therefore giving them more tools to connect can only also be a good thing.
Which we know is not universally the case, and that there does need to be guard rails and measures to limit misuse, in order to stop people from manipulating such systems. Which Facebook has been building over time, and may now be in a position to implement more effectively within the evolving metaverse space. But I wouldn’t bet on it, and I don’t know that I’d trust in Zuck and Co. to have thought through the full repercussions of more immersive engagement, given the platform’s history.
But that was Facebook, this is Meta. Right? The two are different, with the Meta branding opening up a new approach.
And now Facebook wants to be in your home, on your wrist, and overlaid onto your real-world perspective, and even becoming your whole interactive space, encapsulating more of your day-to-day experience, in more and more ways.
It looks great, and Zuckerberg’s presentation of the future of connection looks like it has huge potential. But is Facebook really ready to facilitate this next step?
Ahead of World Cup, influencer ‘Mr Q’ lifts veil on Qatar
Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar – Copyright AFP KARIM JAAFAR
At a time when prickly questions are being asked about Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, Khalifa Al Haroon offers a smile, a sigh and a shrug as he seeks to explain its mysteries.
Known to his growing number of followers as Mr Q, the 38-year-old has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil over the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state that describes itself as a “conservative” Islamic country.
The first World Cup in an Arab nation has put a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers, gender rights and even the use of air conditioning in stadiums.
Haroon’s cheerful #QTip videos broach everything from saying “Hello” in Arabic to the right way for men to wear the flowing ghutra headdress. There is also an edition on labour rights.
With less than 60 days to the November 20 start of the tournament, he now has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 115,000 on YouTube. And the numbers keep growing.
Qatar has dozens of online influencers on topics ranging from “modest” but expensive fashion, to the latest sports car being imported into what is now one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Haroon carved out his niche by elucidating Qatar’s unknowns to its growing expat community — and now the hordes of football fans expected for the World Cup.
Haroon — who was born to a Qatari father and British mother and spent 16 years in Bahrain — said he was first confronted by global stereotypes about Qatar and the Middle East while studying for a law degree in Britain.
He had wanted to become an actor, but instead launched his social media presence in 2008 with a blog.
“I was in the perfect position because I was a Qatari who has never lived properly in Qatar,” he said.
– ‘Trust your own eyes’ –
“In essence, I was like a foreigner in my own country and so I had the same questions that foreigners did, and so it just made it easy for me to start putting together information.”
Haroon said there has to be a distinction between “negative news” and misinformation about his country.
“When it comes to fake news, obviously, I think everybody understands that it’s not true and so the only thing that I could do is show people videos and pictures and show them what we’re really like because you can trust your own eyes.”
Some people, he said, have told him they decided to move to Qatar after watching his videos.
Haroon, who is now a consultant to the Qatar Football Association and an eSports entrepreneur, said he is excited about the World Cup “because people can now come here and experience it for themselves and make their own judgements instead of just believing what’s written”.
His main grouse is how outsiders see something negative about Qatar and then believe that all Qataris “accept it or we all agree with it”.
Many supporters of the 31 foreign countries who will play in Qatar have raised concerns, however, about the welcome awaiting them. Can they drink? And what will happen to same-sex couples in a country where homosexuality is illegal?
The government has insisted that beer, normally restricted, will be available and that everyone is welcome. Haroon wants outsiders to experience “real Qatari hospitality”, with its food and coffee culture.
“Of course there are going to be certain social norms,” said Haroon. “What we are asking for is just respect the country. And of course the country will definitely be respecting everyone that comes.”
“Some people might make mistakes because they don’t know what the rules are and that’s OK,” he added.
“The point is our culture is all about intention, our religion is about intention, so as long as you have good intentions and you want to do the right thing, you have nothing to worry about.”
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