Facebook has announced it is launching a video-chat and smart speaker device, the Portal.
Facebook Portal will launch some time in November for $199, with a larger-sized Portal+ model costing $349.
The gadget is the first time Facebook has built and sold hardware under the Facebook brand.
It comes as Facebook battles multiple scandals, and the company is emphasizing the Portal’s privacy features.
Facebook thinks video-calls are broken — and is betting people are willing to pay for a better experience.
On Monday, the Silcon Valley tech giant unveiled the Facebook Portal, a video-chat and smart speaker device, that will start shipping in November 2018. It’s a significant announcement for the company, one that takes it directly into competition with the likes of Google and Amazon, and represents its first foray into building consumer hardware under the Facebook brand.
The Portal, which comes in two sizes, is designed to be used for video calls with users’ friends, and it integrates directly with Facebook’s chat app Messenger.
The Portal will sell for $199 and the larger Portal+ for $349, and will only be available in the US. The company declined to say whether it would be making a profit on sales of the device. It’s available for pre-order today, and will start shipment some time in November, Facebook says.
The devices also doubles as a voice-controlled home assistant and smart speaker in the vein of the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Facebook’s Portal comes with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built-in, allowing it to respond to voice commands to carry out various tasks.
It’s an interesting time for Facebook to offer a product like this: Facebook has been rocked in recent months by a string of scandals — from a hack of 50 million users’ accounts to Cambridge Analytica — and its approach to user privacy is under intense scrutiny. At a demonstration in San Francisco with Business Insider prior to the Portal’s launch, company representatives were quick to emphasize a number of privacy features the device offers, from a camera cover to an outright ban on video recording.
Better video calls
Facebook say it’s launching the Portal to try and solve one of the big problems with video calls — namely, that they’re just not very good. Often conducted on small smartphone screens, they’re a pretty poor approximation of actual human connection.
“We designed them from the ground up to really address all the friction that exists today in video calls, and get people from the feeling of being in a call to really feeling that they are together, that you’re in the same space, that you’re hanging out,” said Rafa Carmago, VP of Portal.
At rest, The 12-inch Portal and 15-inch Portal+ (pronounced “Portal Plus”) are basically fancy digital photo frames, showing a pre-selected assortment of the user’s photos from your Facebook feed. Unless explicitly switched off, the camera and microphone default to always on, listening out for commands and monitoring to see if someone is in the room.
The user wakes it with a command …read more
Source:: Business Insider