Facebook Inc. (FB) says its Building 8 division is a group of "world-class experts" brought together to "develop seemingly impossible products that define new categories."
Business Insider says it can now tell us what that may mean in terms of products. The website has learned that Building 8 is working on four simultaneous projects currently, and the gadgets will be front and center at the company's developer conference on April 18 and 19.
One project involves augmented reality and cameras, a second is led by a neuroscientist and involves brain-scanning technology, a third is led by an interventional cardiologist from Stanford and could also involve a device with medical applications, and the fourth is likely the development of a consumer drone since Frank Dellaert, a former chief scientist at Skydio, a startup in the drone space, is leading the team. BI noted that Skydio’s former head of hardware, Stephen McClure, joined Facebook to be Building 8’s head of hardware in January, and "a handful of former GoPro employees have also joined Building 8 in recent months, including a founding member of the drone maker’s industrial design team." Buzzfeed tech reporter Pranav Dixit pointed out that one of the projects sounds similar to Span Inc.'s (SNAP) Spectacles, which is pertinent considering Facebook has been accused of copying Snapchat features before.(See also: Snap's Spectacles Now Available to General Public)
BI said its analysis of Facebook's activities and its conversations with sources "shows an ambitious effort to create and sell millions of consumer hardware units, from a supply chain outpost in Hong Kong to a planned retail push and customer call center operation."(See also: Facebook's 2016: A Year in Review)
Facebook's mysterious Building 8 division was created last year and the company poached Regina Dugan from Google (GOOG) to head it. Dugan held a similar role at Google as the head of its Advanced Technologies and Projects group and was previously the chief at the Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Facebook is also seeking marketing and retail experts as it prepares to bring its products to the public. A listing for GTM (go-to-market) Retail Program Manager at Building 8 reads, "Building 8 seeks a GTM Retail Program manager who will have the responsibility of creating disruptive ground up shopping experiences of Facebook consumer hardware. We are looking for a slightly impatient individual willing to face down their fear of failure to accomplish bold things." It is also looking to hire people to fill the roles of GTM Partnerships Lead and GTM Special Projects Lead at Building 8.