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Facebook Unveils New Hardware Lab Called 'Area 404'

By Victor Thomson , Aug 04, 2016 05:53 AM EDT
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Facebook has built a hardware lab facility called Area 404 on a new 22,000-square-foot surface at its Menlo Park, CA headquarters, where the company will perform modeling and prototyping of new hardware components and products.

Moving faster than most companies, Facebook has experienced delays whenever it had to outsource testing and prototyping of its gadgets. The company has lots of hardware projects on its 10-year roadmap, so it made sense to dedicate a hardware laboratory within its Menlo Park headquarters. 

According to The Verge, Facebook's hardware lab is filled with massive and expensive machines typically found at a manufacturing plant. For instance, the Area 404 facility has installed a 5-axis milling machine, a computer-controlled 9-axis drill and a sheet metal-cutting water jet. All the equipment is located in a central building of Facebook's main campus.

Facebook has rapidly growing hardware and infrastructure needs. For instance, the new Menlo Park space will support Facebook's Connectivity Lab. This is part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative that aims to bring internet access to remote parts of the planet and developing countries through lasers, satellites and drones.

The Area 404 hardware lab will also be used by Facebook's expanding data center operations, virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR and the company's new secretive Building 8. The Building 8 is a team led by former DARPA director and Google exec Regina Dugan. Facebook will prototype in Area 404 its Internet-beaming lasers, solar drones, next-gen servers and VR headsets.

According to Tech Crunch, the Area 404 hardware lab also houses one of the few rooms at Facebook where even its CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't allowed in. The reason is that the room is too unsafe despite all the certifications and precautions. Facebook adheres rigorously to a 5S safety system.

Jay Parikh, Facebook's Head of Engineering and Infrastructure, explained for the same publication that the name Area 404 was chosen for the 22,000 square foot space after the "Not Found" error code. This is related to the fact that resources necessary were unfortunately "not found" at Facebook by the engineers who kept needing to prototype new hardware devices. After many requests have piled up, Facebook decided to create the futuristic hardware lab center.

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