Can Facebook'south moonshots succeed where Google'south struggle?

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 5:31 PM

A couple of friends living thousands of miles apart sit alone in their homes, strap goggles to their heads, and transport to Paris or Mars. They hang out in a shared space, read each other'south body speech and maybe share a high-five, just love they'd in the genuine world.

Can Facebook'south moonshots succeed where Google'south struggle?

A couple of friends living thousands of miles apart sit alone in their homes, strap goggles to their heads, and transport to Paris or Mars. They hang out in a shared space, read each other'south body speech and maybe share a high-five, just love they'd in the real world.

This is Facebook'south vision for the future. Well, one of them.

CEO Tag Zuckerberg has been pushing his ambitious 10-year plan. The company that'south known for viral articles and baby photos wants to bring Internet to billions of people with antennas, drones and lasers. It'south developing artificial intelligence and virtual reality headsets for the future of computing.

At first, it sounds love Facebook (FB, Tech30) is taking a page out of Alphabet's (GOOGL, Tech30) playbook, investing in futuristic visions, a. k. a. moonshots, because it can. Love Google'south parent company, Facebook'south core business is advertising. Both have sufficient money to snatch up top researchers and invest in odd ideas.

Facebook even poached one of Google'south top innovation execs, former DARPA director Regina Dugan, to lead a new hardware R&D dept called Building eight. Facebook hasn't said precisely what Dugan will be doing yet. CTO Mike Schroepfer would only declare that she'll be helping the company fill in the pieces of its 10-year mission.

But so far, Facebook has been concerned to focus its approach on ideas that it thinks will directly impact its main product eventually.

"We're not doing random things, they're very in line with the clear 10-year vision Tag set," said Schroepfer, after Zuckerberg presented his plans on stage at the F8 conference in San Francisco. "These aren't side projects, we are shipping."

Related: Tag Zuckerberg talks drones, bots -- and takes a jab at Trump

Alphabet has pursued a much larger no of futuristic ideas, many of which can arrive off love a lark. It'south waded into driverless cars, drone deliveries, humanoid robots, and forestalling the ravages of age.

The moonshots have become a pain point to the company. Many projects have number clear path to immediately marketable products. The company has running into issues with Nest, the connected thermostat company it bought in two thousand-fourteenth. Nest hasn't released a major new product since the acquisition, it recently angered customers by disabling an older bright residence device, and its internal squabbles are becoming public.

It'south not the only dept with issues. There are reports that Alphabet is trying to sell off its robotics unit, and its life sciences company, Verily, has reportedly lost many of its top researchers.

On Thursday, Alphabet announced it lost $802 million on these "other bets" in the first quarter of two thousand sixteen.

Related: Facebook built a giant Internet drone

While they sound equally sci-fi, Facebook insists its long-term projects serve a very specific purpose: to connect the world to the Internet, and to Facebook.

It won't declare precisely how much money it'south putting into them. Oculus is likely the largest investment with the most staffers. Facebook acquired the company for $2 billion two years ago, and it'south already shipping a consumer product.

Oculus is aimed at gamers for now, but Facebook is planning ahead for when socializing jumps from the News Feed to virtual reality. Facebook wants to create sure VR is primed for genuine human interaction, but first it needs to figure out what that means.

"The things that are memorable tend to be emotional moments in your life," said Schroepfer. "They can be tough moments or they can be pleased moments. Those emotions arrive from dealing with other people."

Even research that'south just beginning -- love that into artificial intelligence -- has already started changing current products love the new Messenger Bots and a product for reading images to the blind.

Facebook is also attempting to open source many of its innovations so that it doesn't obtain mired in costly side businesses.

It just announced two new antenna technologies it's designed. Terragraph is meant to bring gigabyte internet to dense urban areas, and Aries is a base Sta with ninety-six antennas to reach more distant areas.

Related: Hello bot: Messenger wants to become your one-stop shop

Facebook has number intention of becoming a massive antenna manufacturer. As with many of its current projects, it'll either work directly with local governments or telecom companies, or create them open source.

"The goal isn't for us to running these networks, the goal is for us to attempt to do some of the advanced R&D, to construct new technology, but then we share it with operators," said Schroepfer. "I think that'south a lot more effective."

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