Facebook is exploring creating a mysterious 'modular' hardware device – Business Insider

Project AraGoogle's Venture Ara cellphone might have its particular person components swapped by the consumer. The cellphone by no means shipped.Venture Ara

Facebook seems to be taking a web page out of Google's playbook for its forthcoming push into client hardware.

A patent application revealed by the corporate on Thursday particulars a "modular electromechanical device" that may incorporate a speaker, microphone, contact show, GPS, and even operate as a cellphone.

Modular client hardware permits customers to swap completely different elements onto a device, a lot in the best way lego items will be snapped collectively or separated. 

The notion of a plug-and-play smartphone has lengthy entranced and challenged tech firms. Google spent a number of years creating its ambitious Project Ara modular phone, solely to abruptly shutter it final 12 months.

Coincidentally, many key members of Google's Venture Ara staff now work at Facebook's Constructing eight group, the staff answerable for the new patent utility.

Constructing eight is Facebook's client hardware lab that is also working on futuristic projects like the power to sort together with your thoughts and perceive language by means of your pores and skin. The 4 staff named on the patent all beforehand labored for Nascent Objects, a startup Facebook bought last year that used 3D printing to shortly prototype modular devices.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the expertise was acquired by means of Nascent Objects however declined to remark additional.

Tens of millions of linked units

It is unclear what precise device the modular system might be used for, though individuals accustomed to the matter have instructed Business Insider that Constructing eight is closely targeted on creating cutting-edge camera and machine learning technology. A Facebook spokesperson did not reply to a request for remark.

The modular device might operate as a cellphone or Amazon Alexa-like music speaker, in line with the patent, which additionally notes that "tens of millions of units" linked to a server could possibly be loaded with completely different software program based mostly on elements which are swapped out. Constructing eight's head of latest product introduction, Bernard Richardson, beforehand labored in a related position at Amazon on the Alexa speaker, in line with his LinkedIn.

Here is a sketch of the mysterious product idea included in Facebook's patent utility:

Screen Shot 2017 07 20 at 4.06.47 PMA rendering of a modular device with a speaker and processor in a patent by Facebook revealed Thursday.USPO

Facebook tried to make a phone with HTC in 2013, however the challenge was a full flop. Constructing eight's roster of expertise contains former staff from Apple, Google, and Motorola with expertise creating and transport tens of millions of telephones and tablets. The division is additionally assembling a retail and e-commerce staff to promote the devices that get created by the staff.

No matter Facebook finally ends up transport below its Constructing eight umbrella, the corporate thinks that a modular system is extra helpful for customers than the best way devices just like the iPhone are manufactured and offered right now.

"Sometimes, the hardware elements included within the client electronics which are thought of 'outdated' are nonetheless useable," Thursday's patent, which was initially filed in January 2016, reads. "Nevertheless, the hardware elements can now not be re-used since client electronics are designed as closed methods. From a client potential, the life cycle of typical client electronics is costly and wasteful."

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Facebook is exploring creating a mysterious 'modular' hardware device - Business Insider