Facebook is upping the ante against Amazon and Google with the launch of Portal, a smart speaker and display product that's been designed with video calls in mind. The former features a 10.1-inch screen with WXGA resolution and 10W speakers, while the latter features a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 20W speakers and a 4-inch bass woofer. Facebook claims that they don't record the contents of your calls, and just like any other smart speaker, it only actually listens to you when you say "Hey Portal", to trigger Facebook features, or "Alexa", for smarthome and other features.
Facebook's Portal devices are available for pre-order now, with the 10.1-inch variant going for $199, and the 15.6-inch variant going for $349.
Facebook wants its users to buy a new video chat device for their homes, complete with cameras that track movement.
The new video call devices are powered by AI, with Facebook's "Smart Camera" technology created to follow you as you move around the room and zoom in to the action, meaning you can continue chatting over video while doing chores, cooking in the kitchen, or looking for something in your room.
For those not jazzed about giving Facebook that much access, maybe don't buy the Portal. Hoping to quell concerns, the company included a mic/camera disable button on both Portal devices, as well as a physical camera cover. To prevent unwanted visitors from using your Portal, you can set a passcode from four to 12 digits in length. Calls can be made to and from Messenger-enabled phones and tablets, and Portal supports group calls of up to seven people at the same time. It integrates with Facebook Messenger and features voice controls: "Hey, Portal".
Facebook even includes a plastic cover that can be placed over the Portal's camera, though its simple, non-integrated design makes the cover seem like a bit of an afterthought.
When you're not using the Portal, a feature called Superframe will let you display your favorite photos and videos or important notifications such as birthday reminders. You can ask the device questions by using the voice command, 'Hey Portal'.
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That said, Facebook says Portal does not collect any information about people's home, listening only for voice commands.
Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British firm working for Donald Trump in 2016.
Both Portals use AI technology to make video chatting better.
The device has an emphasis on video conferencing and comes in two versions - the Portal and Portal+. By purposefully excluding many features, the Portal becomes purely a music-playing and video-chatting device.
Portal's camera, which uses a form of artificial intelligence to recognize body shapes, is a major marketing point, offering users the convenience of staying in the frame without having to adjust the device. There are apps for Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and the Newsy news service.