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Facebook is buying a startup to build hardware faster

The startup, called Nascent Objects, aims to help create physical prototypes more quickly. It's all part of Facebook's 10-year plan.


The startup, Nascent Objects, aims to let people build hardware prototypes faster.

Nascent Objects

In case you haven't heard, Facebook is in the hardware business now. The social network is building massive Wi-Fi drones, data servers and virtual reality goggles -- in addition to giving you your fix of baby pictures and political rants.

To help build those kinds of things faster, the company on Monday said it's buying Nascent Objects, a small Silicon Valley startup that makes tools to help speed up the process of building physical hardware prototypes. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The startup will join Building 8, Facebook's secretive initiative for developing hardware.

"Imagine designing, building and delivering a hardware product in just weeks. Instead of months, or even years," Regina Dugan, head of Building 8, wrote on her Facebook page. "Together, we hope to create hardware at a speed that's more like software."

Facebook declined to comment further.

The company announced Building 8 after poaching Dugan, a former DARPA chief, from Google. There, she ran a similar hardware unit called Advanced Technology and Projects, or ATAP. In August, Facebook unveiled a state-of-the-art facility for building hardware at its Menlo Park, California, campus, called Area 404, complete with electrical labs, heavy-duty milling machines and workbenches.

Specifically, Nascent Objects said its technology combines hardware design, circuitry and 3D printing, according to an announcement on its website about the acquisition. But the thing that makes the startup stand out is its specializing in "modular electronics," which allows you to swap out interchangeable hardware parts.

Facebook's push into hardware is part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sweeping 10-year plan for the company. The plan includes big bets in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and internet access. It's part of Zuckerberg's oft-repeated mantra of "making the world more open and connected." For Facebook, it's also about trying to keep ahead of the next wave of computing -- whatever form that might take.