Facebook News Research

Take a look at Facebook’s futuristic ‘Area 404’ hardware lab, built for VR & drone research

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Y’all might know Facebook as just a social network or a software company but to meet its goal of connecting the world, the company also has to venture into the hardware space — and that too at an extensive scale. Thus, it is today introducing us to its massive and comprehensive hardware lab on the first floor of Building 17 at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park.

This new 22,000 square foot lab — roughly the size of three baseball fields — is Facebook’s attempt to bring together multiple hardware team under on roof and create more opportunities to explore each of the technologies its working on. Also, this extensive hardwrae lab will see Facebook reach the hardware goals it has outlined in the 10-year roadmap discussed at F8 devcon.

And it has also given the hardware workspace a cool, intriguing sci-fi name — Area 404 — as well.

This new space will now handle majority of modeling, prototyping, and failure analysis in-house, thus reducing the development cycle of each product. This hardware lab will make it easier for Facebook engineers to brew a mockup, prototype and test the same, all in one place.

With more than 50 workbenches, Area 404 will house the Connectivity Lab, Oculus, Building 8, and the infrastructure team, so that they can work collaboratively in the same space. It is also packed with huge, expensive and dangerous machines, and even a few — so unsafe — rooms that are not accessible to CEO Mark Zuckerberg without supervision.

To avoid any sort of mishaps, all hardware engineers are trained and adhere to the 5S safety system — sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. The hardware workshop is further divided into two separate spaces —

  • The Electrical Engineering Labs provide space and equipment for the various teams to test and debug their designs.
  • The Prototyping Workshops, however, is packed with a variety of equipment setups and machine tools, including multi-axis computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, 9-axis mill-turn lathe, 5-axis water jet(shown above), capable of cutting sheets of aluminum, steel, or even granite.

facebook-404-hardware-lab

Now, if you want a deeper look into what all innovative and high-tech hardware equipments will be prototyped and tested in this new space at Menlo Park. Well, first of all it will be the home for Facebook’s key infrastructure initiatives, specially the data center racks and solutions. The parts associated with  open rack, top-of-rack switch Wedge, modular switch 6-pack, storage solution Open Vault and the Telecom Infra Project will be developed here.

In addition to this, this space will also be the residing house for the company’s solar-powered internet beaming drone ship Aquila(which it recently successfully tested for the first time) and the terrestrial antenna projects, Terragraph and ARIES. And even the Oculus VR team will be shifting to this humongous open innovation workshop to work ont he development of new hardware and technology, including Facebook Surround 360‘s camera rig.

Much like Tesla who is working on an extensive and large Gigafactory on the outskirts of Nevada to meet its production demands and dream of creating a connected transport system, including electric trucks, and buses, Facebook is also doing the same to meet its 10-year roadmap. This space will help Facebook advance its hardware innovation and development pace by creating smarter, more immersive experiences and systems that will connect the world — one day.


A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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