Facebook's futuristic hardware division Building 8 is working on a new electromechanical modular device, which could potentially function "as a phone or Amazon-Alexa like smart speaker", according to a report in Business Insider.
A patent application, published on 20 July, details "modular electromechanical devices, more specifically electromechanical devices having their functions defined by the combination of modules attached to a chassis". The report said the devices can "incorporate a microphone, touch-screen display, speaker, GPS, and even function as phones".
According to the patent filed in January 2016, an electromechanical device would eliminate the use of "expensive and wasteful" conventional consumer electronics that carry a "short life cycle" and are considered "outdated" after a couple of years. It added, the hardware in such devices is still usable, but it can no longer be reused since "consumer electronics are designed as closed systems".
While it is still unclear what Facebook plans with this technology, the patent does suggest, the company has an eye on modular consumer hardware, which is considered far better than conventional consumer electronics.
The four employees named on the patent previously worked for Nascent Objects, a technology upstart focusing on modular electronics that Facebook acquired last year.
Building 8, which is already working on some ambitious hardware projects, has shown interest in the modular hardware concept over last one year. The division is headed by former DARPA director Regina Dugan, who previously headed Google's Advanced Technology and Projects.
Google, after spending years on the Project Ara modular phone, shut the project last year. Coincidently, many members working on the project have now joined Building 8 at Facebook.