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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Meta Hits the Brakes on Portal, AR Glasses, and Other Hardware

As the old adage goes, “hardware is hard.” Doubly so in the metaverse.

The company Meta (née Facebook) has slowed its pursuit of AR glasses. The headset, which Meta had aimed for release in 2024, was likely years away from actual development. Now, those plans seem to be on indefinite hold. That report comes a few weeks after Meta admitted it burned through more than $10 billion on its metaverse efforts.

It's not the only hardware to go on Meta's back burner. Portal—the controversial videoconferencing device with an object-sensing camera that follows your movements—is also going into limited production. Meta now will stop producing Portals at the consumer level and aim the product at business users instead. The company has also reportedly stopped developing a smartwatch with cameras that had been in the works for a couple years. But hey, the guy who came up with the metaverse is getting into NFTs now, so maybe it's all still legit.

Lens Crafters

Phone cameras have gotten pretty boring. In fact, they’ve remained fundamentally unchanged for years. But the company Metalenz is moving camera tech forward by developing optics that capture more data while lying flatter than standard lens elements. Flat optics are easier to stack, which makes for better lenses in a smaller package—so small that a smartphone designed around Metalenz’s camera tech could eliminate the external bump on the back of the handset.

On Thursday, Metalenz announced a partnership with the semiconductor company STMicroelectronics that should accelerate Metalenz’s entry into the consumer market. The company’s first product utilizing the “metasurface” lens tech is a depth sensor that can be used for smartphone functions that require 3D data, such as portrait mode photos or face-unlock authentication. The same sensor can also provide depth-sensing abilities to VR headsets and autonomous robots.

If adoption of Metalenz’s tech continues, these flatter and more powerful lenses could be making their way into more smartphone-ready camera modules to help you better see the world around you.

Tesla Troubles

On Wednesday, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it will dig deeper into its investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot features after a series of crashes last year. Last August, the NHTSA started looking into 11 accidents since 2018 in which Teslas in Autopilot mode ran into vehicles at emergency scenes where first responders were present. The expanded investigation will examine the Tesla vehicles themselves and attempt to assess whether the autonomous systems were wholly at fault, or just made human error worse.

OK, so I guess when Tesla crashes its car into an ambulance late at night it gets “investigated,” but when I do it I get “arrested on the spot.” Whatever.

OnePlus 10 Pro Gets More Pro

When the Chinese company OnePlus announces new phones, they don’t get quite the same splash that iPhones or Samsung’s Galaxy phones do. Still, we tend to like OnePluses (OnesPlus?) hardware here at WIRED. The new OnePlus 10 Pro, which we gave a 7/10, is already on sale in the US and Canada, but there's a new configuration with much more memory and storage arriving on June 15. The new version of the phone will have 12 GB of RAM, up to 256 GB of internal storage, up from 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage on the original version. The new model, like the old one, runs OnePlus’ own OxygenOS over Android 12. The beefier config starts at $969 and is only available in black.

Xbox Games Without the Xbox

The time is nigh to kiss the console goodbye—if you bought yourself a brand-new Samsung smart TV. Microsoft announced Thursday that it will be bringing its cloud gaming feature of Xbox Game Pass to Samsung’s 2022 line of smart TVs on June 30. That’s more than 100 Xbox games streamed right to your screen, no console required. Microsoft says it plans to expand to other smart TVs in the future.

Xbox Game Pass has already smoothed out some boundaries between gaming platforms, letting people play across consoles and PCs. While Microsoft seems keen to hang onto its hardware, it seems like the days of the console are numbered.

Tales From an In-Person WWDC

In case you missed it, Apple held its WWDC event this week. During the keynote event (aka outdoor prerecorded screening) on Monday, Apple laid out its vision for the next iterations of iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS. It also showed off a couple different MacBooks, though clearly one was the favorite child.

This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED product reviewer Brenda Stolyar comes on the show to talk about the important takeaways from the event, and what it was like on the ground at Apple headquarters.

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