Will This Year’s Big Announcement by Facebook at F8 Be Hardware-Related?

The social network's Building 8 unit is reportedly working on 'at least four unannounced consumer hardware projects'

Facebook isn’t a hardware company … until it is.

Alex Heath of Business Insider reported that the Building 8 unit Facebook formed last April is working on “at least four unannounced consumer hardware products,” speculating that more details might be shared at the social network’s F8 annual developers conference April 18 and 19 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

Regina Dugan joined Facebook when Building 8 was formed last year to lead the division, after serving as leader of Google’s advanced technology and products group and, prior to that, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Heath said Facebook would not comment on his story, but sources familiar with the goings on at Building 8 outlined the four projects being worked on, adding that a fifth project is on the drawing board once a leader for that initiative is chosen:

  • A project involving cameras and augmented reality.
  • A drone, based on recent hires at the division.
  • A project involving brain-scanning technology, which is being led by a neuroscientist who helped develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm and who previously worked at Johns Hopkins University.
  • A potential medical project being led by an interventional cardiologist from Stanford University with expertise in early-stage medical device development.

Regarding the potential drone, Heath reported that the project is being helmed by robotics and computer vision expert Frank Dellaert, who joined Facebook last summer from Skydio, which is developing a drone that can autonomously track people while navigating through physical space.

Heath added that former Skydio head of hardware Stephen McClure joined the company in January as head of hardware for Building 8.

Heath also noted that Facebook posted job listings for a go-to-market retail program manager and a GTM partnerships lead for Building 8.

The position description for the retail program manager reads, in part:

The product launch team has the responsibility for taking breakthroughs and delivering them to market at scale. Building 8 seeks a GTM retail program manager who will have the responsibility of creating disruptive ground-up shopping experiences for Facebook consumer hardware. We are looking for a slightly impatient individual willing to face down their fear of failure to accomplish bold things. This is a full-time position based in our Menlo Park (Calif.) office.

The partnerships lead is virtually identical, but it stresses third-party partnerships in the responsibilities section:

  • Establish, manage and maintain stellar relationships with Facebook cross-functional teams to establish strong partnerships and to define successful go-to-market strategies.
  • Seek best-in-class external partnerships that will provide support and foundation to achieve Building 8’s mission to connect the world.
  • Drive partner channel strategy that will deliver game-changing go-to-market activities and establish Building 8 as a disruptive leader in retail presence.
  • Partner with marketing, operations, finance and entire go-to-market team to build an engaging and successful three-year partnership strategy for Building 8 retail.
  • Negotiate third-party contracts and terms to deliver world class consumer engagement.
  • Identify unique and inspiring collaborations that will drive innovation, impact social good and inspire consumer loyalty and trust.
  • Employ out-of-the-box thinking to drive innovation and establish nontraditional third-party partnerships that will drive revenue.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post last April announcing the addition of Dugan:

I’m excited to have Regina apply DARPA-style breakthrough development at the intersection of science and products to our mission. This method is characterized by aggressive, fixed timelines, extensive use of partnerships with universities, small and large businesses and clear objectives for shipping products at scale.

We’ll be investing hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars into this effort over the next few years. I’m excited to see breakthroughs on our 10-year roadmap in augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, connectivity and other important areas.

And Dugan wrote in a post that same day:

Building 8 is an opportunity to do what I love most … tech infused with a sense of our humanity. Audacious science delivered at scale in products that feel almost magic. A little badass. And beautiful. There is much to build at Facebook … and the mission is human … compelling.

Image on homepage of Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, Dugan and Zuckerberg courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. Image above courtesy of Regina Dugan’s Facebook page.