Facebook’s Building 8 is in Jeopardy after Top Female Exec bails
For Facebook’s futuristic plans losing the best female communicator after Sheryl Sandberg hurts. This is not a bunch of nerds that are great at communicating their vision of the future.
Regina Dugan, said it was a “difficult decision,” and that she’d be “building and leading” a new, undisclosed endeavor after she leaves in early 2018.
Remember, these were the guys that said VR would rule the world and we’d want to do Facebook while wearing expensive heavy and nausea creating VR solutions. The same people who thought buying “tbh” as a child app was a good idea, either to halt its viral growth or milk into the next Instagram, we’re really not sure.
Facebook for such a successful company, has a surprisingly lack of leadership stability and to outsiders, it’s not clear why. The hallmark of a good company is not to let your leadership churn or lose talent through internal bickering.
As everyone in the world + Elon Musk is going after the neural interface, Facebook seem somewhere off in left field trying a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make them feel like a Silicon valley leader.
Facebook’s poaching Google execs has a bad habit of turning out badly. Regina was only there 18 months. She also said some crypt stuff in her Facebook post announcing her decision, which you can read here.
She like literally quoted Kennedy:
…The world is very different now. United, there is little we cannot do… divided, there is little we can do. Let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness.
The announcement comes just 3 months after Former vice president of ads and business platform Andrew Bosworth began overseeing Facebook’s consumer hardware efforts — including Building 8 and virtual reality unit Oculus VR — in August.
The Race to the Neural Interface
Regina Dugan ran the Advanced Technologies and Projects lab at Google before joining Facebook in April 2016. News of what Building 8 was up to back then sounded like something big, however lately it’s been shown Amazon and China are pulling even faster ahead. Given the lack of innovation Apple of even Google’s own devices are showing; one has to wonder if the best neural interface in the future won’t come from Amazon itself.
The future is already here with several million smart speakers being sold and an Voice-AI platform that is Alexa, with over 25,000 skills.
However, a non-invasive neural interface would be considerably more of a revolution of the AI-human context. If VR and AR have been slow and expensive to show promise, Voice AI should scale considerably faster in the next-gen of what apps can become in IoT. Smart speakers also provide next-gen levels of Data that can help AI be trained better to serve humans in all aspects of their lives.
DARPA this, Google that, and Facebook Show
Let’s not forget, Regina was also a former director of DARPA. At Building 8, she oversaw Facebook’s new hardware projects where are semi-under wraps. We know that Facebook will have a smart screen codenamed Aloha, which should hit consumers by mid to end 2018. We don’t know by then if YouTube will find its way back on Amazon Echo Show or if Google will have its own smart screen by then, but chances are it will. We know what Facebook has lost the smart speaker race already, with other companies getting in after Amazon and Google next with the likes of Alibaba, Xiaomi, Line, Samsung and with Apple and Microsoft’s contribution to the field falling flat.
Are Google and Amazon destined to battle it out in the future of consumer facing AI? At the rate Tencent and Alibaba are investing in AI, we can’t count them out. When the Ad-bubble bursts for digital leaders, what exactly is Facebook’s plan of attack? That’s never entirely been clear. As video on demand is rising with the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — it’s unclear if Facebook and Apple get skin in the game that matters.
You know if it weren’t for Sheryl Sandberg. Regina’s departure means one less powerful woman in a company where women make up 35% of the workforce, and 28% of the senior leadership. Not bad for Silicon Valley, not good for women in leadership as a whole.
Meanwhile Facebook’s company’s eight-member board is as white as their white lies about the future of tech, which includes two women, including Sandberg.
We note that Dugan was pretty outspoken about inclusion in leadership in her time there. Not exactly the recipe to keep your position happily in the frat-boy scene that is likely Facebook’s hierarchy.
Dugan is not dumb when it comes to the importance of diversity in the creative process, when she said:
You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem-solving that way.
But is Facebook dumb for likely driving her away?
Time will tell, my bet is not on Facebook. Even though it’s one of the fastest rising companies in history. There are too many bad signs, signs that point badly to future failure.
Sure, we would human beings like to humans to type 100 words a minute by simply thinking them. But probably not on Facebook.