Facebook has applied to patent a ‘modular electromechanical device’. It’s vague to say the least, but the idea seems to be to make consumer electronics last longer.
The application talks about having a chassis and then space for multiple ‘functional modules’ to attach to the chassis, the idea being that exactly what the device is and does can change over time. It goes on to suggest that with the right combinations of modules and downloadable hardware, it could serve as anything from a phone to a karaoke machine to a GPS tracker.
At first glance this sounds a lot like the attempts Google and other companies made to make modular smartphones that could be upgraded piece-by-piece. That seems unlikely to be the case here given both the failure of Google’s Project Ara and the previous negativity Mark Zuckerberg has shown towards a ‘Facebook Phone’.
Perhaps a more likely possibility is that Facebook wants to get in on the trend for home digital assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but with more scope for users to change the roles the device can serve. Business Insider notes that a key figure in the Facebook department that filed the patent application previously worked on Amazon’s Alexa technology.
As always, it’s worth remembering that with a company the size of Facebook, a patent application is no guarantee it has the desire or ability to turn the idea into a commercial product any time soon.