Facebook disbands secretive research lab amid reorganization

Dec 15, 2018

Facebook's secretive research lab, where the company developed new hardware like its Portal speakers and researched moonshot projects like brain computer interfaces, is no more.

Building 8, the division Facebook created in 2016 to house some of its most ambitious projects, has been disbanded and the projects have been redistributed to other groups within the social media company.

The change, which was first reported by Business Insider, marks the end of the "Building 8" brand, though the group's work will continue on.

Facebook created Building 8 in 2016, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg committing to pour "hundreds of millions of dollars into this effort over the next few years" in order to "to advance our mission of connecting the world." To lead the new Building 8 work, the company poached former DARPA head Regina Dugan from Google, where she oversaw the company Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group.

The following year, Dugan wowed crowds at the company's F8 developer conference where she showed off some of the company's research, including a brain computer interface and tech that would let people "hear" through their skin.

Dugan left Facebook at the start of this year, saying "the timing feels right to step away and be purposeful about what's next."

Work at Building 8 continued on, most prominently on Portal, the company's first non-VR hardware product. The Facebook-connected speakers were the first consumer products to come out of Building 8. The company is also reportedly working on a camera-equipped TV set-top box that would use the same software as Portal.

Now, thanks to BI, we know that behind the scenes Facebook has separated the Portal team into its own group, which oversees Facebook's other "unannounced hardware projects." Meanwhile, Building 8's researchers have been shuffled to Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), another new group at Facebook lead by Facebook's top VR researcher, Michael Abrash. The FRL group was created in May, around the same time Facebook announced a bigger reorganization among its top executives.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to BI that the Building 8 brand was no more, but said it continues to work on the same projects and hasn't laid off any employees as a result of the re-structuring.

Building 8 was the early name of the team building consumer hardware at Facebook. Building 8 is part of Facebook's AR/VR organization. Now that we're shipping, it's the Portal team. And Rafa Camargo is still leading the team; that has not changed. We also unified research looking at longer terms projects under one team, which became Facebook Reality Labs, which is also part of our AR/VR organization. This includes research projects like the Brain Computer Interface.

 

 

Credit: mashable.com

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