Is Facebook making a karaoke-playing phone that can track hikes?

Sometimes patents are dull. And sometimes they’re from Facebook, and contain mentions of a mystery device that can add in random bits of technology like Lego and help you sing karaoke.

That’s what this odd new device that Facebook wants to patent is all about: an object that lets you clip in different components and perform different actions as a result.

The patent is pretty wide-ranging, but tells of a base module with a processor and circuits to let users clip in new devices - which could be anything from a touchpad, to a display… even to a thermometer.

That in itself is interesting, as it hints at a home device - similar to Amazon Echo or Google Home - but one that would let the user decide what they’d use it for.

What is it?

But digging a bit deeper into the use cases given to explain the patent, there’s mention of the unit functioning as a ‘telephone device’ when speakers and a microphone are connected, or alternatively becoming a ‘karaoke device’... the two key things we’re all looking for in our electronics.

It appears to be portable as well, with mention of a connected GPS module activating a ‘hiking tracking’ mode.

The mystery Facebook device would also have network connectivity, whether over LTE or Wi-Fi (among others) and when new modules are added the unit would download new software to become an all-new device.

(Image credit: USPO)

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves though: this is a patent, and could be nothing more than the scribblings of an idle engineer - although Business Insider has pointed out that four of the people listed on the patent came from a startup bought by Facebook that could 3D print modular components quickly.

It also states that many people from Google’s stillborn modular Ara project are also part of Facebook’s R&D team looking at futuristic concepts like this patent, which was originally applied for in January 2016.

Whatever the reason, it looks like the big tech companies haven’t given up hope that the modular world - which would help reduce the amount of wastage in the electronics industry - will still become a popular concept in the future.

Or, that we’ll all spend our final few hours lost on hiking trails wailing ‘I will survive’ into a small black box.

  • Will Facebook's modular dream fare better than Project Ara?
Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.