Facebook unveils smart speaker Portal for making video calls

Facebook Introduces AR Enhanced Video Calling Devices

Facebook launches Portal and Portal+ video call devices

Since Echo's release almost four years ago, both Google and Apple have followed Amazon in releasing smart speakers designed for use with their other digital services - some of them, at least.

Facebook Portal owners will be able to call other users who have the device as well as Facebook Messenger apps on smartphones and tablets.

The survey concluded that 45% of consumers who already own a smart speaker said they plan to purchase another one for themselves, and 23% plan to buy one for someone else. Portal+ is the bigger sibling with a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 display.

Both devices are available for pre-order in the USA at $US199 for the Portal and $US349 for the Portal+ with United States shipping to begin in November.

They also allow for sharing music with Spotify Premium, Pandora and iHeartRadio as well as telling stories with some augmented reality effects. The Amazon Silk browser offers access to Google's YouTube, which was removed from the original Show, due to a corporate spat between Amazon and Google.

Then there's the issue of Facebook introducing a device with a camera that can pivot around a room to follow the user.

Their fears were compounded when Facebook revealed another security breach in late September, when hackers were able to enter its computer network, exposing the personal information of almost 50 million users.

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Bosworth however noted that they do not intend to stop with Portal, promising to "invest very heavily, not just hardware through Oculus but also through Facebook", Bosworth said.

As Facebook is aware of privacy concerns, the cameras in the Portal and Portal+ come with a cover that can easily block the camera's lens at any time and the user can still receive incoming calls and notifications, plus use voice commands.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, with a giant display size of 10.1-inch and resolution of 1280×800 pixels and 10W dual speakers.

The rate of video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp is on the increase and Facebook is not disputing how awesome it could be on our phones. In a blog post, Facebook touted the Portal devices as being created with privacy and security in mind: calls are encrypted, there's no facial recognition, users can disable the camera and microphone are among the privacy measures Facebook listed. Towards that, it will also respond to "Hey Portal" when users are ready to make a video call.

Portal runs on the open-source version of Google's Android mobile operating system, similar to many Amazon devices.

Given this long shadow that Cambridge Analytica or #deletefacebook continues to cast, the idea of putting Facebook-connected eyes and ears in one's home will surely raise some eyebrows!

Powered by AI, Portal's Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology take all of the guesswork out of video calling, letting people enjoy a more convenient, hands-free experience.

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