Facebook might have more than just serving ads to WhatsApp users and launching video-calling systems on their minds. The social network is reportedly working on a couple of unannounced projects — one of which may be a camera setup designed to be connected to a TV screen. The point? To turn it into a gigantic Portal, obviously, but we reckon there are a few other applications for it as well.
Several sources are reporting that Facebook is working on TV-related hardware, codenamed ‘Ripley’ in the Facebook for Android code that references it. Facebook isn’t building a TV, as such, but it is creating a sort of set-top box that contains a camera. It will connect to a TV and turn the average home’s biggest screen into a massive Facebook Portal. Which wouldn’t be hard, since Ripley is supposed to run on the same platform as Portal.
Facebook may introduce this device at a lower price point than the Portal speaker/screens they are launching this year, and website Cheddar claims that there’s a tentative timeline for Ripley’s release — some time in mid-2019, though that is subject to change. Facebook’s Watch streaming service could be hosted on the device, with others being added at a later stage — a move that would put Ripley into competition with the Apple TV, Roku’s range of gear, and the Amazon Fire TV. Having that camera facing the couch may prove useful for more than just TV-assisted video calls. It could also allow Facebook to monitor user reactions to adverts, something that Microsoft looked into as far back as 2012. Now that would be valuable data to own (and you can bet Facebook’s at least thought about it.
Facebook is not just working on Ripley, though. There’s supposedly a brain interface in the works at Facebook’s hardware-focused Building 8, codenamed Edgefield. The head-mounted interface has a dozen or so Facebook employees working on it and it’s said to be in the early stages of development. So… no mind-reading headsets for you this year. Not until they can work out how to reduce the amount of computing power needed to make it go. An armband that turns sound into vibrations that can be transmitted through human skin (the project was known as Innatum internally) was in development but has since been cancelled due to issues in development.
Something with a better change of coming to fruition is Sequoia. Sequoia (apart from being the name of a major venture capital fund) is apparently the codename for an augmented reality projector in development in the bowels of Facebook. The projector would let users interact with virtual, projected objects in the real world. Video conferences, virtual board games and interactive kids stories are some of the early applications being tested, with no timeline on when we could expect to see a practical demonstration.