Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

10 October, 2018, 10:23 | Author: Bennie Parsons
  • Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

Facebook introduced Portal and Portal+ this week, smart displays of sorts that are catered to video calls, powered by Amazon Alexa and other AI features.

With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, the Portal is part of Facebook's mission to improve video calling by making it "completely hands and distraction free".

Created to rival the Amazon Echo Show, the Portal will retail for $199 (around £150 / AU$280), whereas the larger model, the Portal+, will cost $349 (£270 / AU$495), with Facebook's current deal of $100 off any two devices meaning you can get both for $298 if you're a United States customer.

Most of the Portal's chatting features are opt-in, which means the user is shipped a device that gives them the power and onus to choose what features are enabled and disabled.

Portal and Portal Plus make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family when you can't see them face-to-face in real life.

Portal represents Facebook's entry into that fray. Facebook says it doesn't listen to or store the contents of any Portal call, and all of the A.I. features for Smart Camera and Speaker run locally in the device, not on Facebook's servers. The screen can be locked behind a passcode, and you'll need to log into your own Facebook account if you want to change it.

The device can also stream music from Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music and video from Facebook Watch. In a statement that highlights that Facebook knows it has work to do to gain the trust of consumers, the company said that the kill switch physically cuts the circuit to this camera and mic, rather than just turning them off, in order to prevent hacking attempts.

Portal integrates Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to handle search queries, and Amazon collects audio files of requests made to Alexa. It will also show you photos and videos from your Facebook library.

The $349 Portal+ has a 15-inch, 1920×1080 display that can pivot into portrait and landscape modes.


Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. "Interestingly, Facebook has included Amazon Alexa software in their device, allowing users to ask questions such as" What's the weather?" or "How are my teams doing?"

Facebook's release of Portal comes at a time when the social network is under intense scrutiny around the world.

What's unique about Facebook's device is the tech it uses to make the video calls look good. And to start the call, all it takes is: "Hey Portal".

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit that the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016.

Facebook Portal comes in two display sizes: Portal, which is 10 inches, and Portal Plus, which is a whopping 15 inches.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, which is basically a giant display with a speaker.

Facebook has launched its very first piece of hardware you can buy, if you disregard its Oculus-branded headsets and the ill-fated HTC First. Whether you're cooking in the kitchen or chasing the kids around the living room, Smart Camera stays with the action and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

The Portal Plus device can also swivel into vertical orientation, similar to how people are used to viewing and video-calling through their phones.

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