Project Ara «continues» on Facebook

Google is not only the most popular search engine and the company that develops the most common mobile OS - Android. Its devices - Nexus and Pixel - are also well known to users. Among the company's projects was one that, if implemented, could completely change the idea of a smartphone. And, maybe, Facebook will embody the new form factor in reality.  

Facebook seems to be working on what Google previously worked on - a new form factor for the consumer device. In more detail, this interesting topic and its prospects were considered by Alex Heath (Alex Heath) on the pages of Business Insider India . Published on July 20, 2017, the patent application of the company describes a "modular electromechanical device," which can be equipped with a speaker, microphone, GPS and even function as a telephone. A modular consumer device will allow users to connect various components to the device, similar to how it is done in the designer. Details can be connected and disconnected. The theme of the modular smartphone has long been considered in the industry. For example, Google has spent several years developing an ambitious modular smartphone as part of its Project Ara. Last year, work on the project was suddenly stopped, and users can only guess how the smartphone realized within the framework of this project could look. Coincidentally, many key employees of the Google Project Ara team are now working in the Facebook Building 8 group, a team that is working on a new patent application. However, although the patent application says that the work on the modular device is continuing and this topic has not become one of the unrealized pages of the history of the industry, this does not mean that such a device will be released. And, of course, it's not about the continuation of the Project Ara from Google, but, quite possibly, about a completely different concept, but based on the same key idea of ​​the modularity of the consumer device. Building 8 is a Facebook lab that develops consumer-oriented hardware, and also works on such futuristic projects as the ability to input power of thought and understanding the language through the skin. Four employees identified as co-authors of the patent application, previously worked in Nascent Objects, a startup that Facebook bought in the past year. This startup uses 3D printing to quickly create prototypes of modular gadgets. To date, it remains unclear what the new modular device will be used for, although, as reported in addition, "people close to the subject" said that Building 8 focused its efforts on developing advanced camera technologies and machine learning. In the meantime, a representative of Facebook, who was asked a question, did not comment on this topic. Probably, the new modular device will be able to function either as a phone or as a musical column of Amazon Alexa, which follows from the description of the patent. It is also noted that we are talking about "millions of devices" connected to the server, which can work on the basis of various software and based on connectable and disconnected components. Building 8 Director of New Product Presentation Bernard Richardson is reported to have previously worked on a similar topic in Amazon as part of the Alexa column development. To the patent application Facebook is attached also a sketch of the concept of a mysterious product. It should be noted that in the history of the most famous social network there have already been attempts to create a smartphone. In 2013 Facebook together with HTC worked on the creation of the phone, but the project did not have success. Among the talents working in Building 8 are former employees of such famous companies as Apple, Google and Motorola, that is, companies that have experience in developing and supplying millions of phones and tablets. This unit also includes a team engaged in retail and e-commerce for sales of those gadgets that are created by the team. In the end, Facebook does not present any of the developments in Building 8, the company seems to be considering the modular system as more suitable for modern users than devices in the iPhone-like form factor that are manufactured and sold today. As noted in the patent application, which was originally formed as early as January 2016, usually many hardware components of modern devices that are already considered "obsolete" are still good enough and could be used even further. But they can not be used, because the design of consumer electronics does not involve the replacement of a significant part of its components. Thus, the "life cycle" of conventional electronics is costly and uneconomical. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of modular smartphones?