Facebook debuts smart speaker for Messenger video calls

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

In Facebook's favour, beyond the price difference, is the fact that the company can hook Portal's videoconferencing features into Facebook and Messenger, two services that cover a substantial chunk of the human race between them. Facebook promises you can delete Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity log.

Portal's camera, which uses a form of artificial intelligence to recognise body shapes, is a major marketing point, offering users the convenience of staying in the frame without having to adjust the device. Its primary goal is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too.

Powered by AI, Portal's Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology take all of the guesswork out of video calling, letting you enjoy a more convenient, hands-free experience. The inclusion of Amazon's software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices.

"Facebook is a little bit late to the market for smart speakers", said Tom Morrod, a research director for consumer electronics and telecoms at IHS Markit.

Although Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house. In addition, a number of Portal's features are opt-in, and there is no video recording feature.




Facebook has announced Portal, a series of devices that let you do voice or video calls to other Facebook and Messenger users. Designed specifically for video-calls, the hi-def camera has the ability to detect how many people there are in the room, and focus on them, panning and zooming on the subject's face as they move around. The Portal comes with a manual camera cover that covers the lens, physically blocking it from broadcasting video when you don't want to, and additionally has a button that turns off the mic and camera, physically cutting the circuit, so it can't be compromised by hackers who want to tap into your video feed. The smaller one looks like a complete rival of the Echo Show, featuring a similar design with a 10-inch screen in the middle, a camera at the top, and a speaker unit at the base.

Again, Portal and Portal+ are up for pre-order in the U.S. on Facebook, as well as Amazon and Best Buy.

Facebook, whose founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently questioned by Congress about the company's privacy practices, clearly anticipated scepticism about it selling an AI device that can see and hear in your home and as such insists that it won't "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls".

When you're not video chatting, you can use Portal to watch shows on Facebook Watch or The Food Network, or to stream music from Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartRadio. Additionally, you can also receive $100 off any two devices, meaning a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298.

Click below to pre-order your Facebook Portal or Facebook Portal Plus today!

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