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Facebook swipes the head of Google's ATAP lab to lead a new hardware division

Tapping out

Facebook is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building new hardware, the company said today, and it's hired a star to lead it: Regina Dugan, who leads the Advanced Technologies and Projects Group at Google. Dugan will lead the new group, to be called Building 8. She was previously the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, where she focused on creating breakthrough technologies. Since 2012 she has worked at Google, developing technologies including tech-infused fabrics, modular smartphones, and Project Tango.

Facebook provided few details about Building 8's focus, other than to say it will develop "new hardware products to advance our mission of connecting the world." Dugan will develop hardware powered by Facebook software, complementing the work of Facebook's artificial intelligence and virtual reality divisions, the company said. "We'll be investing hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars into this effort over time, and I'm excited to see the progress they make," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Dugan said it is "a bittersweet day."

I am on the one hand, tremendously excited. Building 8 is an opportunity to do what I love most... tech infused with a sense of our humanity. Audacious science delivered at scale in products that feel almost magic. A little badass. And beautiful. There is much to build at Facebook... and the mission is human... compelling.

"I am sad to leave the pirates of ATAP," she wrote in a blog post. "Each of our efforts to create new, seemingly impossible products, has been faced with intense challenges along the way. Technical challenges. Organizational challenges. Challenges that might have broken lesser teams. This is the type of work we signed up for when we built ATAP. It is terrifying because it means we have to face our fear of failure, stare it down, more days than most. So be it.

The loss of Dugan represents a blow to Google, where she was a well regarded for her ability to marry blue-sky thinking with practical product development. "We thank Regina Dugan for all her leadership and contributions as part of the Advanced Technology and Projects group, and wish her the very best," Google said in a statement. Dugan will start her new job "soon," Facebook said.