Facebook’s Hardware Division Secretively Exploring Modular Smartphones

In order to compete with Google’s Project Ara “a modular smartphone”, Facebook is secretively working on Building 8 division. Is Facebook’s secretive skunkworks division led by former DARPA director Regina Dugan, looking into developing modular smartphones now. Here are the details in a full and complete discovery.

Everything published today is what the company filed for a patent. Highlights a “modular electromagnetic device” that would alleviate the issue of “expensive and wasteful” conventional electronics that consumers purchase and then dispose of when they’re inevitably outdated in a couple of years. The high-profile patent describes bot a phone and a smart speaker as potential product categories.

As said, it looks like Facebook is exploring modular smartphones, that would allow users to easily swap existing components. This development was first spotted by Business Insider. But what’s unclear is that to what extent Facebook is working on a concrete hardware project that will see the light of the day.

Nevertheless, there are a number of signs that point to Building 8’s increasing interest in modular devices. For one, Dugan, as the leading head of Building 8, has a history with modular smartphones: she was previously in charge of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, which developed a modular phone called Project Ara.

Dugan this year joined Facebook to lead Building 8, where she’s pursuing a number of other ambitious hardware concepts. Those ideas even include brain-computer interfaces that allow people to type with their thoughts and even hear through their skins. While the division’s head of new product information, Bernard Richardson, is also formally of Amazon’s Echo speaker, giving Building 8 some great consumer hardware expertise.

According to the source, the modules in the patent includes a touch screen display, speaker, a microphone, GPS and for a device that could even function as a phone. The report suggests that a number of former Project Ara team members now work for Building 8 at Facebook. Also confirmed by the company is the technology described in the patent was developed primarily by former members of the startup Nascent Objects, a company focusing on modular electronics that Facebook acquired last September.

Filed in 2016, the patent shows a main chassis and a series of modules that would be using 3D printing. The device in the works would change its function by downloading new software depending on the modules it is using. So we have to see how Facebook’s new modular project will explore in the near future, while Google killed its own Ara last year.

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