Report: Facebook’s struggles to develop its own hardware

There are dozens of companies that set up discreet divisions or departments to handle some of their ideas and create new products and this has been going on long before now. Examples of companies that have so done include Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks division that created the U-2 spy plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, another is Apple whose secret division developed the iPhone. In recent times, Facebook set up a somewhat secretive division since the company was looking to venture into hardware. Our sources tell us that the secret hardware division at Facebook, Building 8, has been working hard to develop a hardware device that can compete with devices from Amazon and Google.

Some of the ideas that are being worked on in Building 8 include a system that will give users the ability to type just by thinking about what they want to type, (type with their thoughts), modular smartphones, and a video-call device that would end up being the Portal. 4 years ago, former DARPA and Google technologist, Regina Dugan was hired by Facebook to head the division but she left only 18 months after. Last year, Facebook gave up and had the division shut down and moved its employees to other divisions so that they could focus on other undertakings.

Our sources report that the reason the company decided to give up in its attempt to create hardware products were well founded. Facebook at one time was looking to design a home assistant device like the Amazon Echo after Amazon launched its Echo speakers and this was the reason why Dugan was recruited. Another project Facebook had in mind which was the forerunner of the Portal was called “Little Foot” and the company intended for it to be an iPad that would move towards a person in a room. As soon as Facebook started getting interested in video, the team of Building 8 started to develop “Little Foot” as a video chat device.

Reports we also got state that the secret nature of Building 8 started creating some tensions within the company, among the employees both of Building 8 and other divisions. The company spent a great deal in the budget that was meant for Building 8 and when certain members of the company were invited to visit the division and see some of the prototype products such as Portal, brain-reading devices, and the AR project known as “Project Sequoia” – a simulation of “hologram computers in ‘Iron Man’ movies” – an escort had to accompany them.

There are more problems that also came up that made the company decide that it wasn’t going to follow through with its hardware projects anymore. However, recent reports suggest that the company is embarking on a new version of portal with the code-name “Ripley”. It is a camera that can be mounted on a TV and Facebook is in talks with streaming networks such as Disney and Netflix about synchronizing their services with the device.

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