Similar to how the U.S. Government has Area 51, a top-secret fortress that allegedly tests high-powered flying vehicles (some may call them UFOs), Facebook has opened a hush-hush experimental laboratory of its own: Area 404. Recently christened in Facebook’s home base of Menlo Park, Area 404 is a 22,000 square foot hardware lab that the social media giant plans to use in order to model and prototype new components and hardware. Area 404 will bolster Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, the section of Facebook with the mission of bringing Internet access to remote areas of the world. Facebook’s Connectivity Lab already has some impressive hardware in its arsenal, including Aquila, their Internet-beaming drone.
Area 404 was born of the idea to reduce the time it takes to conceive an idea, model it into software and then produce a physical, tangible prototype. However, Area 404’s aspirations don’t stop at simply creating devices like drones, lasers and satellites that can spread the Internet to the far reaches of the globe – the new hardware lab will also help expand Facebook’s data center operations and be utilized by Oculus VR, Facebook’s virtual reality headset manufacturer. To maintain some level of enigma and mystery (much like Area 51), Area 404 will also work in tandem with the company’s top secret Building 8, a skunkworks team led by DARPA director Regina Dugan and former Google executives.
Thanks to Area 404, every department within Facebook that involves physical products or hardware now has access to the most high-tech equipment on the market in order to keep the development process in-house rather than sending projects out to third-party vendors. Not only does Area 404 give Facebook more control over the hardware the manufacture, but it drastically increases efficiency and productivity in they development process. Some of the products currently being developed in Area 404 include 360-degree video camera housings, data center racks and drone rotors. With Area 404, Facebook is on the right path to fulfilling Mark Zuckerberg’s 10-year plan for his company, which includes becoming more focused and hands-on in burgeoning markets like artificial intelligence and virtual reality.