Head of Facebook’s hardware lab resigns for ‘purposeful’ next step

The head of Facebook’s hardware lab Building 8 has stepped down to focus on a ‘purposeful’ next step. Regina Dugan exits the company after joining from Google 18 months ago. She will stay on for the remainder of the year before parting ways with Facebook’s hardware division.

Rumours have emerged of Facebook developing an artificial intelligence chip with Intel in recent weeks. Reports over the summer also suggested that Facebook was working on a modular device, especially given Dugan’s experience in bringing Google’s Pixel range to market.

In her parting message Dugan gave a cryptic reason for her departure but implied that she wanted to move onto something more ‘responsible’. She said: “The timing feels right to step away and be purposeful about what’s next, thoughtful about new ways to contribute in times of disruption. There is a tidal shift going on in Silicon Valley, and those of us in this industry have greater responsibilities than ever before." Read into that what you will, but Dugan’s departure has perhaps been on the cards for some time with Facebook appointing Andrew Bosworth as head of its consumer hardware efforts in August, in what now looks like a direct replacement for Dugan.

Facebook had set up the Building 8 lab last year when Dugan joined the group and she since established a team of her own. Intel on Tuesday announced it was working with Facebook on a semiconductor chip designed for artificial intelligence, with the chip expected to be on the market at some point later this year.

Before joining Facebook, she led Google’s Advanced Technology and Products team, which built things like modular smartphones and clothes outfitted with micro-sensors. Before Google, Dugan was the director of DARPA, the special research lab that builds new technology for the U.S. military.

Her full departing Facebook post read: “Today I am announcing that early next year, I will be leaving Facebook to focus on building and leading a new endeavor. I will be working with leadership over the next several months to ensure Building 8 makes a smooth transition into 2018.

“This was a difficult decision for me. Together, we have already done so much good work. And there are many people that I will miss, personally, and professionally.

“It was Kennedy’s words, delivered more than 50 years ago, that inspired me: ‘The world is very different now. United, there is little we cannot do… divided, there is little we can do. Let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness. And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, where the strong are just and the weak secure. This will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days. Nor even perhaps in our lifetime. But let us begin.’

"And so, I begin. I will do my part.”

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