Facebook announces video communication devices amidst rising security breach concerns

Donna Miller
October 12, 2018

It is wide enough to capture the whole living room, but with the help of Smart camera software Portal recognises a human in the frame and crops the image and zoom in, it does so smoothly, as a skilled cameraman does.

It has always being Facebook's desire to have its own video device that will match its rivals in the market. Smart Sound minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move. In addition to one-on-one calls, up to seven Portals can take part in group chats. However, it will not be possible to record.

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

Facebook unveiled Portal, which comes with a 10-inch 1,280 x 800 touchscreen, as a smart speaker that is focused on enabling video calling among friends and family.

To make a call, you simply begin with, "Hey Portal".

"We set out to try and make video calling so good that it feels like you're sharing the same physical space as someone else", he said.

Facebook is offering Portal devices in discount bundles to urge people to buy them for relatives, Wired reported. Spotify Premium, Pandora and iHeartRadio let users stream music on the devices, which also show programming from Facebook Watch, Food Network and Newsy.

Just like smart speakers, Portal is Alexa powered and the cue word to communicate will be "Hey Portal".

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the United States - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November. It costs 1,699 yuan (US$250), has a 8-inch screen, and also lets users make video calls and watch videos on iQiyi... which is unusual, because iQiyi is owned by Baidu, but JD.com is owned by Tencent - you'd think they'd use Tencent Video instead.

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The smaller 10-inch, 720p screen comes with two speakers, and goes on sale next month for $199.

Facebook also allows users to disable the camera and microphone, which supposedly physically disconnects them with camera cover. The product, dubbed as Portal, can be used to call other Portal users as well as anyone who is connected via Facebook or Facebook Messenger.

"Both models are created to help you feel closer to the important people in your life and make video chats feel less like a call, and more like you're actually in the same room", Facebook said in a blog post.

Google made a point of noting that Home Hub, unlike the Echo Show and Facebook Portal, will not have a camera.

For more complex voice-controlled tasks, both Portal devices also incorporate Amazon's Alexa intelligent assistant.

Shared experiences are an area that Facebook sees as a workable niche for the Portal devices.

When people are not on a call, Portal's "Superframe" can display favourite photos and videos and important notifications like birthday reminders.

The product only launched in the USA on Monday and now doesn't ship beyond the states.

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