Facebook wants to know what you're thinking.
The social media giant may be set to become more than just a place to connect: A new report from Business Insider suggests that a secret division of the company that works on hardware is poised to unveil some big innovations at its annual F8 developer conference in April, ranging from augmented reality (AR) to mind-reading.
The secret hardware team, dubbed Building 8, is headed by former Google executive Regina Dugan, who had spearheaded projects at Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group. In the spirit of Google X, the company's driverless car lab, Building 8 is composed of an all-star tech team working on innovative projects. According to Business Insider, the team's current projects include AR glasses, which can allow wearers to perceive virtual objects as an overlay. There's also talk of a consumer drone, a mind-scanning device, and a medical device, as well.
SEE: Augmented reality gaining more traction than virtual reality in the enterprise (Tech Pro Research)
Building 8 is working on a "brain computer interface" prototype that can scan brains—which sounds in line with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's previous interest in developing a device for telepathy. Its AR device could potentially be used to link someone's GPS data to real-world data about the surrounding environment, which could provide information about nearby shopping, for example.
Facebook has made big investments in AI, as it works on mastering natural language understanding, translation, slang interpretation, facial recognition, and other staples of the site that rely on machine learning to make predictions about user behavior—and help the company place targeted ads.
In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus for $3 billion, a move that highlighted its intention to invest in virtual reality. Oculus also has an AR feature. With this move into consumer device territory, Facebook signals that it wants to continue to better understand how members of its network think. It also has a huge leg up in this area: A decade of user data.
At EmTechDIGITAL in May 2016, Alan Packer, director of Facebook's Language Technology Group, spoke about the company's investment in AI as a way to better know its users.
"We see how people are communicating, we see how they are having conversations," said Packer. "We know you."
It should be noted: Facebook has not officially confirmed any of the aforementioned projects.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Facebook's experimental tech team, Building 8, focusing on hardware, is working on four projects it may release at its annual F8 developer conference in April.
- The projects include: AR glasses, consumer drone, mind-reading device, and a medical device.
- The new projects signal Facebook's heavy investment in AI and intention to move toward consumer products.
- Why Facebook wants to use AI to track your conversations online (TechRepublic)
- How to create 'innovative' machines: From decision-making to creativity (TechRepublic)
- Facebook's machine learning director shares tips for building a successful AI platform (TechRepublic)
- Facebook's Oculus ordered to pay $500 million to ZeniMax (ZDNet)
- AI helpers aren't just for Facebook's Zuckerberg: Here's how to build your own (TechRepublic)
- Facebook details plans for connectivity, AI, and social VR (TechRepublic)
- Facebook embraces AI to get businesses and customers talking (TechRepublic)
- Facebook is using AI to help blind people 'see' the photos in their newsfeed (TechRepublic)
- Facebook: Our AI will give everyone 'superpowers' (TechRepublic)
Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.