Ex-DARPA chief, Google ATAP mastermind is heading to Facebook

Regina Dugan

Facebook today announced a bold new venture called Building 8, and it's tapping none other than Regina Dugan to lead the charge.

Dugan is the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the US Department of Defense, and most recently served as head of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team.

ATAP is responsible for such ambitious projects as Project Tango and the modular phone initiative Project Ara. It's famous for insanely aggressive timelines and out-there projects, both carryovers from Dugan's time at DARPA that have resulted in some of the wildest tech we've seen in the last few years. And it actually works, which is equally as amazing.

It's this ethos that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is amped to see come to Facebook's Building 8 division.

"I'm excited to have Regina apply DARPA-style breakthrough development at the intersection of science and products to our mission," Zuck wrote in a post. "This method is characterized by aggressive, fixed timelines, extensive use of partnerships with universities, small and large businesses, and clear objectives for shipping products at scale."

What is Building 8?

But wait, what is Building 8?

According to Zuck, the group will be "focused on building new hardware projects to advance our mission of connecting the world," something the company has spoken about at length during its F8 developer conference this week.

Facebook is committing "hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars" to Building 8's projects over the coming years.

Zuck said he's looking forward to the breakthroughs that come out of the group related to the social network's 10-year plan, particularly around VR, AR, connectivity and "other important areas." It's these areas, then, that Dugan and the new Building 8 team will focus on.

For her part, Dugan described in a post that it's a "bittersweet day for me."

"Building 8 is an opportunity to do what I love most... tech infused with a sense of our humanity," she wrote. "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."

She did, however, express sadness over leaving "the pirates of ATAP."

"Each of our efforts to create new, seemingly impossible products, has been faced with intense challenges along the way," Dugan wrote. "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."

In response to Dugan's departure, a Google spokesperson sent us this statement: "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."

Facebook is going all in on technologies to connect the world. Dugan is an ambitious leader who is more than capable of delivering on big promises very quickly. She appears ready to embrace the challenges Facebook has laid forth, and it'll be amazing to see the "badass" tech she comes up with alongside the Building 8 crew.

Top image credit: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

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Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.