More than four years after the catastrophic box-office failure of the HTC First, aka Facebook Phone, speculation is ramping up again all of a sudden regarding the social media giant’s possible consumer hardware comeback. That is, of course, if you don’t consider the Oculus Rift VR headset a Facebook creation per se, as the Irvine-founded company was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg in 2014.

Either way, the secretive Building 8 division, led by former DARPA Director and Project Ara overseer Regina Dugan, might be working simultaneously on a modular smartphone and humongous Amazon Echo rival with a 15-inch touch panel in tow. Or the two projects could be related, given the multiple speaker references included in that exciting recent patent.

Whether Facebook will let you easily swap the components of its rookie smart speaker effort or not, this is reportedly expected out as soon as the first quarter of 2018. That means the Pegatron-manufactured product would be beaten to the commercial punch by Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod in addition to the Alexa-supporting Echo family and Google Assistant-enabled Google Home.

But only the $230 Amazon Echo Show sports a touchscreen, and it’s a relatively small one, at 7 inches. Interestingly, Facebook’s mysterious “smart speaker product” is said to “focus more on image display instead of voice recognition functionality”, which could suggest voice assistance will be missing altogether.

That obviously doesn’t make a lot of sense, 15-inch screen or no 15-inch screen, especially when Facebook has its own (rough around the edges) AI assistant service.

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