WHILE IT WEATHERS a data scandal courtesy of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is looking at building its own chips as part of a push into hardware.
You'd think Zuckerberg and pals already have plenty on their plates, what WhatsApp, Instagram, plans to beam the internet to remote areas and a host of other projects, but the social network is looking to hire new talent in chip design, according to a job posting seeking people with skills in FPGA and ASIC.
"The role involves evaluating, developing and driving next-generation technologies within Facebook. The candidate would need to work with software and system engineers to understand limitations of current hardware and use their expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML, compression, and video encoding," the posting said.
Reading between the jargon, it would seem Facebook wants someone onboard to help it create processors and chipsets that can be used for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) purposes, something Facebook is pretty interested in; Zuckerberg has previously worked on an AI assistant similar to Iron Man's Jarvis.
This is given more credence by Facebook's director of AI Yann LeCun, who tweeted about the job and further fueled rumours that Facebook's next hardware push will be AI-centric.
While Facebook is most obviously known for its data gobbling social network, the company has its fingers in a lot of other pies. Behind the scenes it has worked on data centre tech which it has open sourced with the goal of making server farms and cloud supporting systems more efficient. And front facing, it has the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, which it snapped up for a cool $2bn.
So Facebook is more au fait with hardware than it would initially seem. And we'd hazard a guess than any chips it ends up working on will not only help support its AI tech, but also could be fed into next-generation Oculus Rift headsets or be used to create a Facebook smart speaker to rival the likes of the Google Home or Amazon Echo.
That's all speculation for now and it's not like there aren't other chips currently available that are also geared up for powering AI tech; Nvidia, for example, has a suite of AI focused chipsets.
But by creating, or at least designing the architecture for its own chips, Facebook would have tighter control over any hardware it's working on and be able to home processors to work specifically with its efforts in smart software.
However, chip design takes a heck of a long time and a lot of boffin brain power. So while we can speculate until the internet's cows come home, we won't know what Facebook has planned until a product crops up in some year time or the company's tech bods spout their hardware ambitions. µ
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