Rumor has it that Facebook is possibly working on an advanced modular device which features a phone, a speaker, GPS support, a touch display, and a microphone. This is further substantiated by per a recent patent application. Modular hardware allows users to swap out different pieces to enable functions like a camera or a battery pack.
According to the patent’s ABSTRACT:
“Various embodiments of a modular electromechanical device are described herein. The modular electromechanical device includes a chassis and a plurality of functional modules that can be connected to the chassis. Each module is associated with a different functionality. The functionality of the modular electromechanical device is defined based on various attributes including the functionality of the different functional modules that are connected to the electromechanical device, the sequence in which the different functional modules are connected to the electromechanical device, the specific attachment structures used to attach the functional modules to the electromechanical device, or a pattern of traces formed with the chassis.”
Facebook has already confirmed that the technology was acquired through Nascent Objects but didn’t provide any additional insight into a possible modular smartphone. The patent itself mentions that the product could work as a phone or an Amazon Alexa-esque music speaker.
The modular device may work similarly to a phone or Amazon Alexa-like music speaker, according to the patent, which also notes that “millions of devices” connected to a server could be loaded with different software based on components that are swapped out.
Facebook has a consumer hardware lab called Building 8 which is working on futuristic projects like the ability to type with your mind and understand language through your skin. The four employees named on the patent all previously worked for Nascent Objects, a startup Facebook bought last year that used 3D printing to quickly prototype modular gadgets.
Building 8’s head of new product introduction, Bernard Richardson, previously worked in a similar role at Amazon on the Alexa speaker, according to his LinkedIn.
People familiar with the matter told Business Insider that Building 8 is heavily focused on creating cutting-edge camera and machine learning technology. Coincidentally, the 4 Facebook employees mentioned in the patent had all previously worked at a startup called Nascent Objects which specialized in 3D printing modular prototypes.
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