Facebook unveils Alexa (Soon Google Assistant) enabled Portal and Portal

10 October, 2018, 10:24 | Author: Shawn Conner
  • Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes

Facebook is finally getting in the consumer hardware-making game, putting not one but two Portal devices up for pre-order after reportedly pausing development for a few months to restore customer confidence. The Portal, which resembles Amazon's Echo Show, features a 10-inch 720p display and a wide-angle 12-megapixel HD camera. As you might expect, its main goal is to connect you with other Facebook users via Messenger; say "Hey Portal" to start a video call. Facebook is going up against some stiff competition with its first hardware devices, with Amazon and Google already dominating the U.S. market for smart speakers and displays.

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. While it appears the two devices have all the usual Alexa-powered smart speaker services built in, what Facebook really wants you to do with Portal is call your friends and family through Facebook Messenger (video calls placed on Portal do not need to be with other Portal owners). If users don't trust the "off" switch for the camera, there's a small plastic cover they can slide over the lens when it's not in use.

'Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Portal includes no facial recognition technology, a built-in physical shutter for the camera, the camera and microphone can be disabled with the tap of a button, and even the camera-tracking feature runs entirely on-device.

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 Portal's video chats are encrypted and not recorded, Facebook says, so the company can't hear or see what you're talking about or who is in the room.

Both models also include an internet-connected speaker that includes Amazon's voice-activated digital assistant, Alexa.

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The larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 display that can be oriented vertically or horizontally. Call out, "Portal, call Geoffrey", and it'll ring my home Portal or the Facebook Messenger app on my phone.

If you're a company reeling from a data leak affecting 50 million users - not to mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal - what do you do next? You can delete the voice history from your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

Two versions of the video calling device have been announced, Portal and Portal Plus. The device features a camera that uses artificial intelligence to automatically zoom as people move around during calls.

The Portal also takes advantage of the best part about Facebook: photos. Facebook partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, and Newsy - and it promised to add more soon.

On the surface, these may look like some of the other smart displays on the market, like Lenovo's Smart Display or Amazon's Echo Show, it's what's inside that makes it different. But even Facebook acknowledges there are privacy concerns. Camargo told Cheddar that the devices' success will be measured internally by how much "engagement" they create with Facebook's video calling and other services.

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