It's not a factory for mass-producing smartphones or other consumer products. Rather, it's where engineers will be working on some of the high-tech gadgetry needed for billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg's long-term plans to connect people through smart gadgets, virtual-reality headsets and high-flying drones that deliver internet signals via laser to remote parts of the world.
And like Google's celebrated X lab, where the internet search giant pursues "moonshot" projects like self-driving cars, Facebook's new research facility demonstrates that in Silicon Valley, leading tech companies are rarely content to just keep making the same thing.
"When you think about connecting the world, you have to build different types of hardware to help people connect," said Jay Parikh, Facebook's head of engineering and infrastructure. To get virtual reality right, he added, Facebook needs to refine hardware like lenses and processors.
The company said the lab will be a space for engineers to design energy-efficient servers for Facebook data centers, test new laser mounts and drone propellers, or refine a prototype 360-degree video camera that Facebook unveiled at a conference in April.
Facebook invited journalists this week to tour the shiny new research facility. Facebook announced its opening today. The company wouldn't say how much it spent to build the lab.
The lab is dubbed Area 404, an inside joke playing off the "error 404" message that internet users see when they try to visit a web page that can't be found. Facebook says its engineers had long talked about wanting such a workspace, but it couldn't be found either because it didn't exist until now.
Facebook isn't widely known for making computer hardware or other physical products. It became a Silicon Valley powerhouse and Wall Street darling because its vast online network is a mecca for digital advertisers. Facebook sold more than USD 6 billion worth of ads in the April-June quarter, reaping more than USD 2 billion in profit.