Facebook's Head of Research Lab Is Resigning

By Deepa Seetharaman Features Dow Jones Newswires

The head of Facebook Inc.'s cutting-edge hardware lab, Building 8, is stepping down after a year and a half.

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Regina Dugan, formerly a Pentagon research chief and top executive at Alphabet Inc.'s Google, will leave Facebook in early 2018 "to focus on building and leading a new endeavor," she announced on Tuesday in a Facebook post. Ms. Dugan has been in charge of Building 8 since the lab's creation in April 2016.

Ms. Dugan didn't mention her next project.

In her post, she quoted from John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address. The speech urged Americans to find a common bond despite differences, in hopes that "a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion."

In a separate statement provided by a Facebook spokeswoman, Ms. Dugan tied her departure to the tech industry's broader reckoning with the way their products are used for harm. Facebook, in particular, has been in the spotlight since it disclosed last month that Russian actors purchased advertisements on its platform in hopes of stoking divisions before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"There is a tidal shift going on in Silicon Valley, and those of us in this industry have greater responsibilities than ever before," Ms. Dugan said in the statement. "The timing feels right to step away and be purposeful about what's next, thoughtful about new ways to contribute in times of disruption."

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Building 8 focuses on bleeding-edge ideas, such as technology that can allow people to type directly from their brains and "hear" with their skin. When Building 8 was created, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the unit would create hardware products that "advance our mission of connecting the world."

But hardware is still an unfamiliar area for Facebook, whose core strength is in developing software services like its Facebook app used by two billion people a month. In August, Facebook promoted one of its most senior executives, Andrew Bosworth, to oversee all of its hardware efforts, including Building 8.

The spring 2016 launch of Facebook's first hardware offering -- the Oculus Rift virtual-reality goggles -- was undercut by shipping problems as well as rising competition from HTC Corp. and Sony Corp. Building 8 hasn't launched a hardware product yet.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 17, 2017 16:19 ET (20:19 GMT)