Facebook Poaches Google Executive to Run Hardware Lab

(L-R) Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook, Dr Regina Dugan and Mark Zuckerberg
(L-R) Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook, Dr Regina Dugan and Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook is establishing a research lab to develop hardware products, and has hired a top Google executive to lead the new project, in a move that emphasises the social media giants ambitions to widen its scope into new areas of technology.

The new group, called Building 8, will be headed by Dr Regina Dugan, who most recently led the Advanced Technology and Projects group at Google and is the former director of DARPA, the US Department of Defences technology research agency.

Building 8 will be focused on “building new hardware products to advance our mission of connecting the world,” according to a Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg announcing the project. The team will use a DARPA-style breakthrough development model to drive technology forward, using aggressive fixed timelines, extensive use of partnerships with universities and other businesses, and clear objectives for shipping products at scale.

Facebook has committed significantly to the project, promising that hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested to support a team of over 100 engineers and researchers. The labs initial focus will include augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligences, connectivity and other key areas, supporting the 10 year plan that Zuckerberg outlined in his F8 keynote earlier this week.

“Building 8 is an opportunity to do what I love most; tech infused with a sense of humanity,” said Dr Dugan. “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.”

Dugans appointment and the Building 8 project both represent Facebook investing more and more time and money in technology areas traditionally dominated by Google, and moving further and further from its initial role as a social network. Time will tell whether such ambitious plans will enable them to stay ahead of the curve of technology, or result in the company stretching itself beyond its means.