Facebook Now Developing Its Own AR Chips: Report

Facebook Logo January 2018 AH 1

In short: Facebook is in the process of developing its own augmented reality chips, as indicated by a handful of job postings that surfaced online over the course of this month. The company is seeking engineers specializing in custom chip design whom it wants to hire via Facebook Reality Labs, a unit formerly known as Oculus Research. The firm explicitly states it’s looking for people familiar with all phases of silicon development, asserting that its AR ambitions start with the very fundamentals of computing. Embedded Software Engineer and Silicon Prototyping and Emulation Engineer are among the related roles that FRL is presently looking to fill.

Background: Facebook has been touting AR as one of the main components of its long-term content strategy for several years now. Between live filters and face masks, the company is already making the most of the currently available technologies but now appears to be moving to related hardware development, with that strategy change being indicative of an AR headset being in the works, or at the very least under consideration. Provided Facebook only recently started the project, it’s likely going to take years before its current endeavor results in any kind of a commercial product. The new openings are in line with the social media giant’s hiring strategy that recently saw it poach silicon experts from the likes of Google.

Impact: The existence of a dedicated chip project at Facebook‘s VR and AR unit suggests the company is making a larger bet on hardware, especially given how it’s still expected to launch its first display-equipped smart speaker lineup later this year. With AR still being in its infancy, the firm can afford to experiment with custom-built silicon as it’s under no pressure to deliver commercial solutions anytime soon and it can always fall back to a third-party supplier if it remains adamant to pursue hardware but ends up falling behind in the AR chip innovation race.