According to Alex Heath of The Information, Facebook does not want its hardware platforms like Oculus or Augmented Reality (AR) glasses to be dependent on Google’s Android Operating System (OS). It is for this reason Facebook recruited Windows NT co-developer Mark Lucovsky to build Facebook its own OS.
For the record though, Facebook says its smartphone apps will remain available for Android OS users.
Referring to the development of an OS, Vice President of Facebooks’ Hardware Division Andrew Bosworth expressed lack of trust on the market and competititors.
Moving to ‘Eye OS’
By moving to ‘Eye OS’, its independent architecture, Facebook will have greater control to blend social interaction with privacy control measures. It will also likely prevent its disagreements with Google diverting from the roadmap of its gadgets.
Another advantaged of moving to Eye OS would be that Facebook will find it difficult to spin its acquisitions example if Facebook chooses Instagram branding for upcoming AR glasses.
Apart from Android, Facebook has also faced issues with Apple whose CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly criticised Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg for failing to ensure user privacy and involvement in dubious data collection.
In the past, Facebook had placed bets on a secret project ‘Oxygen’ to develop a mobile OS which could distribute Android apps outside Google Play. But these attempts in 2013 proved to be futile. Facebook’s phone co-developed by HTC proved a market disaster. Subsequently, both Facebook Home and HTC First were decommissioned.
Investing in the future of technology
Facebook has reportedly booked a new office for its AR and Virtual Reality (VR) teams in Burlingame just a few miles north of its parent headquarters. he new facility will house roughly 4,000 employees. Existing AR/ VR team members will still be retained in offices across California, New York, Washington and abroad.
Facebook told TechCrunch that the new office will also serve as an ‘experiential space’ where the public could play with AR and VR products such as the Oculus Quest headsets, Facebook Portal smart displays, Orion AR glasses and even its AR eyewear.
The retail space in the Burlingame office will let customers try out Facebook’s AR/ VR products before purchasing them.
Recently, according to The Information, Facebook discussed acquisition of Cirrus Logic, a $4.5 billion semiconductor company which makes audio chips for Apple and other high-end consumers. The deal hasn’t materialised thus far. However, it does reveal that Facebook is very serious about taking an edge in controlling the hardware supply value chain.
Hardware that is ‘social’
Facebook Workplace video calls are now compatible with Portal. The Information reported that Facebook is testing a VR video-conferencing system.
Facebook’s hardware business continue to feed back into the company’s advertisement setup. The company is using user data to analyse what people do on their Oculus or Portal then pitches them targeted ads. A lot of juicy data is available for Facebook to mine and derive sense from.
From what Facebook revealed to TechCrunch, Portal currently takes data from user behaviour to prioritise ad targeting example if you do a lot of video calling, you’ll see ads related to it.
The Information reported further that Facebook has downsized its brain-computer interface to predict the words a user will say, but it’s still not ready for integration with phones, yet. Reportedly, Facebook is improving the word error rate using advanced research and expanding its dictionary. Brain activity can be decoded by Facebook in real-time and it’s also working to improve 100 words-per-minute brain typing.
Selling hardware products might never give Facebook the revenue it already gets through ads but it keeps the company in the loop of next-gen computing.