Area 404: Facebook opens Virtual Reality, drones and infrastructure lab


Facebook has opened a dedicated lab space for its telecoms infrastructure, drones and VR research projects – “Area 404″.

The 22,000 square foot lab unites a previously fragmented array of teams and research projects across its various sites in Palo Alto, California. The lab has been refurbished with a variety of highly technical machines aimed at helping engineers create the hardware they need rapidly while researching elements of its virtual reality, telecoms infrastructure and drone based projects: Oculus, Terragraph and TIP, and Aquila, respectively.

The joint lab is dubbed “Area 404”, with 404 being the term used when a server is unable to find a specific webpage being requested. Facebook engineers Spencer Burns and Mikal Greaves wrote on the social media site’s blog “we call it Area 404 – named for our teams wanting a space just like this one, but one wasn’t found; now it’s found, and we lovingly refer to the space as Area 404.”

“With this new space, we can now handle the majority of our modeling, prototyping, and failure analysis in-house, decreasing each iteration of the development cycle from weeks to days,” Greaves and Burns wrote. “Even more important, the space has room for all teams, with more than 50 workbenches in the main area. Connectivity Lab, Oculus, Building 8, and our Infrastructure teams can now work collaboratively in the same space, learning from one another as they build.”

Area 404 will be built up into two main areas, electrical engineering labs and prototyping workshops. The electrical engineering labs are intended to provide specialist equipment for engineering teams to test and debug their designs on highly customised set ups. The prototyping workshops are built out with a range of industrial machines intended to allow teams to create various pieces of hardware they need for their projects.

Targeted uses for the prototype lab, Facebook says, are:

  • Infrastructure: For example, parts associated with our open rack, top-of-rack switch Wedge, modular switch 6-pack, storage solution Open Vault, modular sleds and shelving for Big Sur, and hardware designs contributed to TIP (Telecom Infra Project), like machined heat sinks, sensors, and the mounting solution for OpenCellular.
  • Connectivity Lab: For example, research and development for Aquila; hardware associated with Terragraph and Project ARIES; and our optical detector.
  • VR: New virtual reality hardware and technology, including Facebook Surround 360’s camera rig and outer shell and Oculus prototypes.

This post was originally posted on


VR & AR World conference, 19-20 October 2016, ExCeL London

This year’s event brings together expert Virtual and Augmented Reality speakers and exhibitors from a wide range of industries, and offers the opportunity for attendees to network and build relationships with peers at the two day event.

If you’d like to find out more about the event, visit the official VR & AR World website.



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