ibusinesslines.com November 15, 2018

Facebook unveils voice-controlled camera which watches you in your living room

09 October 2018, 05:09 | Jodi Jackson

Save Save Facebook's Portal camera device

Facebook's new Portal device

Facebook has revealed its new Portal and Portal+ smart speakers, with Alexa built-in.

Facebook has just announced its first video communication devices for the home, dubbed Portal and Portal+.

Privacy is a big issue with Facebook especially with recent developments which is why the company is putting a lot of emphasis on it. Users can completely disable the camera and microphone on the Portal and Portal+ with a single tap. The two devices have a focus on video calling via Messenger but they also come equipped with Amazon's Alexa assistant so you can get other tasks done such as checking the weather, controlling smart home devices, and more. When you're not using the 10-inch touch screen for calls, it displays images from Facebook, such as a shared album you choose. The Portal Plus, which features a 15.6-inch 1080p screen and two louder speakers with a subwoofer, costs $349.

The larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 display that can be oriented vertically or horizontally.

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the USA - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November.

Still, Amazon has shipped 1 million of its Echo speakers with displays over the last year, according to research firm Canalys, which expects 4 million such devices across brands to ship globally next year. You can buy the device directly from Facebook, or via Amazon and Best Buy. It also shows that when it comes to using its services to collect data, Facebook's policy is "if we can't have it, no one can".

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant in its bid for a slice of a market now dominated by Amazon and Google.

The company worked with a USA film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team.

However, the second version of Portal - called Portal Plus - is a whole different beast.

Facebook describes these machines as flawless for video chatting on Facebook Messenger. Portal supports group calls of up to seven people at the same time.

Portal's camera, which uses a form of artificial intelligence to recognise body shapes, is a major marketing point, offering users the convenience of staying in the frame without having to adjust the device. It's worth noting that you can't browse Facebook, the social network, on the Portal.

Facebook is a software company famous for pushing out products quickly and adjusting later depending on the level of uproar. It doesn't use facial recognition, it doesn't record your calls, it doesn't run on Facebook servers, and it comes with a cover you can slide over the camera, Facebook says.

Facebook has just entered the smart speaker business and it's already partnered with three music services: Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio. (Amazon keeps audio recordings of requests you make to Alexa through the Portal; Facebook does not.) There are no ads on the Portal - at least for now. If you buy two devices together you'll also get a $100 discount.

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