Why did Facebook just buy this modular gadget company?


Facebook just scooped up a new company, one that could very well help it develop products – including of the kind with swappable parts – at a pace unseen anywhere else.

Nascent Objects, described by Recode as a small startup that specializes in modular gadgets, developed what it claims is the “world’s first modular consumer electronics platform.”

“By combining hardware design, circuitry, 3D printing and modular electronics, our technology allows developers to go from concept to product in just weeks, much faster and less expensive than traditional methods,” writes Nascent Objects CEO Baback Elmieh in a post announcing the company’s acquisition.

The idea is to take the principles that govern making software and apply those to building hardware. That means fast iteration, on-demand development and quick 180 turns, all of which are nearly impossible in the supply chain-driven world of hardware.

“People have become used to the idea that with software, you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it,” says Elmieh. “We want to make this happen with hardware – and we think Facebook is the best place to make this a reality.”

So, what’s Facebook making?

The Nascent Objects team will join Building 8, Facebook’s hardware incubator. Led by ex-Googler Regina Dugan, Building 8’s mission is to develop hardware that advances the social media giant’s mission of connecting the world.

“Imagine designing, building and delivering a hardware product in just weeks. Instead of months, or even years,” Dugan writes in welcoming Nascent Objects. “Together, we hope to create hardware at a speed that’s more like software.”

What all this means specifically for Facebook remains to be seen, but the possibilities are endless.

Could Building 8 use Nascent Objects’ expertise to develop a modular phone, something Dugan’s former stomping grounds tried and failed at? It certainly seems plausible, and would fit Facebook’s ambitions of connecting more people.

Project Ara
Google’s recently dismantled Project Ara phone

Another possibility is drone development. Though Facebook is making strides in launching internet-delivering autonomous planes, it could potentially tap new, more efficient production systems to pump them out at a faster pace (beating rivals like Google to the punch along the way).

What’s equally likely is that Building 8 will develop products we haven’t even seen yet because now it’s armed with a way to turn concept into reality in the (relative) blink of an eye.

We’ll see how its new Nascent Objects buy shakes out, but it seems Facebook just gained a distinct advantage over other hardware makers stuck with old modes of making things.

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