It’s always encouraging to hear about women kicking ass and taking names in the technology sector, but the loss of former DARPA director Regina Dugan is surely a huge blow to Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) group.
Since 2012, Dugan’s led Google’s ATAP division through a particularly creative era. She helped propel technologies like Project Tango, which is launching its first smartphone this summer; Project Ara, which is Google’s attempt at launching a fully modular smartphone; and Project Jacquard, which involves weaving multitouch textile sensors into regular clothing. You might also remember Dugan showing off an electronic tattoo at the All Things D conference years back.
As Wired notes, part of Dugan’s philosophy at Google was that researchers were assigned to projects for no more than two years. “I believe that’s essential for innovation,” Dugan told Wired last year. “One week of their time is one percent of their entire duration in ATAP. That makes them impatient with bureaucracy and process. And with a small enough group, you can start to strip away those things and go really fast.”
Dugan offered her own statement on the “bittersweet” move to Facebook:
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...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.
At Facebook, Dugan will lead Building 8, which is literally a building on the social network’s Menlo Park campus that is devoted to hardware innovation. There are few details about Building 8 to begin with, but Facebook hinted that it will primarily focus on developing “new hardware products to advance our mission of connecting the world.” It’ll be interesting to see if Dugan has a hand in any of the weird hardware shown at F8, too, like this VR selfie stick.
Of her departure, Google told The Verge, “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.” But the question remains of who will be able to fill such giant, innovative shoes.
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