Shortly before Regina Dugan quit as chief of Google’s hardware group a year ago, she was burned out. Years of shifting corporate priorities and blue-sky projects that didn’t work out weighed on her, people close to her said. She was thinking about leaving the tech industry to “become a barista,” she later wrote on Facebook. Instead, she joined Facebook last April to run its experimental hardware group, Building 8, a position that may prove as challenging as her role at Google.
Part of the job is to develop successful new devices that Facebook could ship widely and quickly. That’s something Facebook has never done before, in contrast to rivals Snap, Google and Amazon, each of which have had success with different hardware products. And Ms. Dugan is shepherding ambitious projects, not typical hardware lineups like tablets or phones. The hope is that Facebook can leverage its billions of users to control the next platform beyond smartphones, and sell hardware that helps people connect in ways beyond text, photos and video.