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Meta halts development of smartwatch with two cameras

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. has halted development of a smartwatch with dual cameras and is instead working on other devices for the wrist, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The device, which has been in development for at least two years, was designed to include several features common in other smartwatches, including activity tracking, music playback and messaging.

A prototype of the now halted device includes dual-cameras, a key differentiator from market leaders like the Apple Watch. One camera was located below the display and another sat on the backside against the wearer’s wrist, according to images and video of a prototype seen by Bloomberg.

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The second camera was designed so users could remove the watch face from its strap to quickly take pictures. But the presence of the camera caused issues with another feature for translating nerve signals from the wrist into digital commands, the person said. Having that technical ability, known as electromyography, is a top priority for Meta.

Meta has touted the benefits of electromyography as a way of using a person’s hands as a “controller for other devices,” including those geared toward the metaverse.

“This is about decoding those signals at the wrist — the actions you’ve already decided to perform — and translating them into digital commands for your device,” a blog post from Meta published earlier this year said.

Meta executives have discussed the potential of smartwatches as part of its vision for the so-called metaverse, an immersive version of the internet where people will interact with other users as digital avatars. Sensors within wrist devices could be used to help people control their avatar, or interact with what they observe through a pair of augmented reality glasses, for example.

Despite the dual-camera device being halted, Meta is still working on multiple other wrist-worn devices. Employees working on the watch, codenamed Milan, were told this week that the device is no longer on track for production, the person said. It was originally targeted for release in spring 2023 at price point around $349, they added.

A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment.

Cost cuts likely also played a role in the company’s decision to halt development of the watch. Meta executives said on an earnings call in April that the company’s annual expenses would decrease by $3 billion this year given a broader business slowdown. That has also impacted hiring at Meta, where filling some management roles has been paused or slowed in recent months. General cost cutting means prioritizing certain projects and efforts over others, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told investors at the time.

Some of the features developed for the dual-camera watch will likely still appear in future products. The prototype device seen by Bloomberg has the following features:

A removable watch face with a gold-colored casing. The case has two buttons on the side, including a long, pill-shaped one and a small circular control.

Dual cameras: A 5-megapixel camera on the front of the watch face, and a 12-megapixel camera on the back side of the watch for use when the face has been detached.

Apps for Spotify, WhatsApp, Instagram Stories, daily activity tracking, workouts, the photo gallery, heart rate monitoring, calendar, settings, and breathing.

The watch also includes a notification center and lock screen. The device doesn’t have a built-in App Store and users instead would manage apps and features from their

Facebook account. Wearers would also have been able to post details of their fitness activities or achievements directly to Facebook and Instagram from the device.

An image of the prototype first appeared inside of Meta’s app to manage its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and was published by Bloomberg last year. Some prior details of the device were also previously reported by The Verge.

The Milan smartwatch was being developed by Meta’s Reality Labs division, the part of the company working on long-term bets and building the metaverse.

Zuckerberg has said that though Reality Labs is a key investment area for the company, those expenditures will cut into profits and result in “significant financial losses” in the unit in the short term.

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Ryanair cabin crew in Spain announce 12 new days of strikes in July

Spain-based cabin crew at Ryanair plan to strike for 12 days this month to demand better working conditions, the USO and SICTPLA unions said on Saturday, raising the prospect of travel chaos as the summer tourist season gets under way.

The announcement came on the final day of the crews’ current strike, which began on Thursday and forced Ryanair to cancel 10 flights in Spain on Saturday.

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Cabin crew will strike on July 12-15, July 18-21 and July 25-28 across the 10 Spanish airports where Ryanair operates, the unions said in a statement.

“The unions and crew of Ryanair … demand a change of attitude from the airline,” they said in a statement, calling for Ryanair to resume negotiations on working conditions.

The unions also urged the government “not to allow Ryanair to violate labor legislation and constitutional rights such as the right to strike.”

Airline workers across Europe have been staging walkouts as the sector adapts to a resumption of travel after pandemic lockdowns.

Spain-based cabin crew at easyJet are striking for nine days this month for higher pay. The airline cancelled five flights from Spain on Saturday.

Workers at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport went on strike on Friday and into Saturday, forcing the cancellation of about 10 percent of flights.

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Tesla braces for delayed delivery due to China plant shutdown

Tesla Inc. is expected to announce quarterly production and delivery figures this weekend that will likely be among the worst of the year – and break its multi-quarter streak of record-setting results – due largely to an extended shutdown of its factory in Shanghai.

The electric vehicle maker may have delivered more than 261,000 vehicles globally during the three months ended in June, according to nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, ending a two-year stretch of consecutive quarterly gains.

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Tesla handed over more than 310,000 vehicles in the first three months of the year, more than any previous quarter.

“We cut our second-quarter deliveries estimate by 65,000 to 245,000 units, reflecting a prolonged Covid 19-related shutdown and logistical challenges in the Shanghai factory,” wrote Emmanuel Rosner of Deutsche Bank in a research note to clients. “Recall that during the first-quarter call, CEO Elon Musk had provided directional guidance of sequentially flat deliveries for the quarter but the situation in China worsened subsequently,” only improving in early June.

Shares of Tesla rose 1.2 percent to close trading Friday at $681.79, but the stock is down about 35 percent so far this year.

Deliveries are one of the most closely watched metrics at Tesla. They underpin the Austin, Texas-based company’s financial results and are widely seen as a broad barometer of consumer demand for EVs amid a wider shift away from the internal combustion engine.

Many large automakers will announce US sales results Friday but Tesla, which reports global totals, hasn’t specified a release date.

Dan Levy, an analyst with Credit Suisse, reduced his delivery estimate for the period to 242,000 units. “In aggregate, we believe the Shanghai shutdown accounted for about 90,000 units of lost production in the second quarter,” Levy wrote in a note to clients.

Tesla makes the Model S, X, 3 and Y vehicles at its plant in Fremont, California. It also produces Models 3 and Y at a factory near Shanghai. The company has begun delivering the first Model Ys from its new plant near Berlin and held a “Cyber Rodeo” event for 15,000 people in April to celebrate a new factory in Austin.

‘Money Furnaces’

However, both Berlin and Austin have been slow to ramp up production, with Musk warning in a late May interview that both plants are “gigantic money furnaces.”

Analysts and investors are also worried that the price hikes automakers are imposing to combat soaring raw material costs will weigh on demand. Tesla had boosted its sticker prices by as much as $6,000 a car earlier this month, according to Electrek.

A stronger-than-expected delivery number could provide a boost to Tesla’s stock, which is down more than 35 percent this year amid wider market concerns about rising energy costs, inflation and a potential recession.

Musk shares many of those concerns and is in the process of laying off 10 percent of Tesla’s salaried work force while pushing others to return to the office.

Earlier this week, Tesla laid off roughly 200 people on its Autopilot team, mostly hourly employees who worked as data annotation specialists.

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Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.
Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter – or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”
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The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The company said equipment getting refurbished in Canada was stuck there because of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German leaders have rejected that explanation and called the reductions a political move in reaction to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned a “blockade” of the pipeline is possible starting July 11, when regular maintenance work is due to start. In previous summers, the work has entailed shutting Nord Stream 1 for about 10 days, he said.
The question is whether the upcoming regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will turn into “a longer-lasting political maintenance,” the energy regulator’s Mueller said.
If the gas flow from Russia is “to be lowered for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” he said.
According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply stoppage, private households would be specially protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
“I can promise that we will do everything we can to avoid private households being without gas,” he said, adding: “We learned from the coronavirus crisis that we shouldn’t make promises if we’re not entirely sure we can keep them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming to Germany at all.”
Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter as a response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then greatly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told daily newspaper Rheinische Post.
Earlier this month, Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faced a “crisis” and storage targets for the winter were at risk.
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