Facebook has come up with many innovative things on the software side (although it has also copied Snapchat a few times), and now, it is planning to do the same on the consumer hardware side, probably with a Facebook modular smartphone. A Facebook patent application published on Thursday mentions a “modular electromechanical device” that includes GPS, a speaker, touch display, and microphone. It can be used as a calling device as well, according to Business Insider.
What is modular hardware?
Modular consumer hardware allows users to replace different components in a gadget, similar to the way “Lego pieces can be snapped together or separated,” explains BI.
The patent was originally filed in January 2016. According to the patent, the hardware components in the gadgets that are marked as “outdated” can be used again, but owing to the closed system design of consumer electronics, such components are rendered unusable.
Michael Mauboussin: Here’s what active managers can do
“From a consumer prospective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful,” the patent read.
Facebook modular smartphone in works?
Tech companies have long been toying with the idea of a plug-and-play smartphone. The most prominent example of this is Google, which worked for years on its Project Ara modular phone, although it never saw success and was shut down last year. Many of those involved in Google’s Project Ara now work in the Facebook Building 8 group, which has filed the new patent application, notes BI.
Facebook Building 8 is a consumer hardware lab developed to work on Facebook’s futuristic projects, including the ability to type using the mind and to understand different languages through the skin, and now probably, a Facebook phone. The patent names four employees who previously worked for the startup Nascent Objects. The startup used 3D printing to prototype modular gadgets and was acquired last year by Facebook.
Facebook Building 8 is being headed by former DARPA director Regina Dugan, who previously led Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division. This division was responsible for developing the Project Ara modular smartphone.
Can Facebook do what Google couldn’t?
Dugan, who has a lot of experience regarding modular smartphones, joined Facebook earlier this year and has been entrusted with the responsibility of handling several ambitious hardware concepts. A brain-computer interface that makes it possible for people to use their thoughts to type and their skin to hear is one of those ambitious projects.
Bernard Richardson, who previously worked with Amazon on its Echo speaker, is the head of new product introduction at Facebook’s Building 8 division, notes The Verge. So the social networking giant has resources to convert the idea into a product.
While Google gave up after investing so much time and money in its modular smartphone project, it is hoped that Facebook will actually develop such a device and make it successful. However, despite the patent, Facebook has not confirmed if it will actually come up with or even work on something like this in the near future.
So until further information, this patent should just be seen as one of Facebook’s many plans and a way to avoid any legal issues if they actually proceed to developing any such thing.