Facebook appears to be exploring consumer hardware as the company’s patent application published on Thursday details on a modular smart device. The patent describes a “modular electromechanical device” that can be paired with speakers, microphones, GPS and touch-sensitive displays.
Modular consumer hardware lets users to replace different modules (components in simple words) and customise a gadget. Basically, it’s like playing with lego where pieces can be swapped and attached based on user’s preference.
Facebook in its patent application wrote, “From a consumer perspective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful.” Generally, the hardware components in the gadgets which are ‘marked’ as “outdated” can be reused, but since “consumer electronics are designed as closed systems” such components no longer remain usable, the company added.
Notably the patent doesn’t exactly describe the device as a smartphone, however the application does mention the use of a few different “embodiments” of the ‘modular system’. Reports also speculate that the device could either be a smart-home speaker.
The concept of modular device is not something new, tech companies have long been fiddling with the idea of ‘plug-and-play’ smartphone. Google’s Project Ara is one of the extrusive illustration of modular phone. While the project never saw the beam of light, a number of ex Google Project Ara members from development team now work for Facebook’s hardware division, Building 8. Interestingly, Regina Dugan who was previously in charge of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group now works as the head of Building 8.
Business Insider notes that Facebook’s consumer hardware labs have been working on several futuristic projects for instance the ability to type with user’s mind and understand language through their skin. The publication also cites that the patent was developed primarily by four employees of Building 8 who have previously worked for the startup Nascent Objects, a company focusing on ‘modular electronics’ that was acquired by Facebook in September last year.
While the device still remains a mystery of how it will actually shape up in the end, if it turns out to be modular phone it will certainly be a game changer in the smartphone industry.