Facebook Unveils Portal Smart Speakers

The inclusion of Amazon’s software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices. Facebook is promoting the Portal devices as a way to communicate, focusing on video calling – the device’s camera will automatically zoom into the main subject in the camera when you are in a video call thanks to the Smart Camera feature, for example.

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Portal could help Facebook stop users from flocking to rival chat and video apps on other speakers and give it a new, wholly controlled environment to sell ads. Both devices support “Hey Portal” for voice control options.

Facebook’s release of Portal comes at a time when the social network is under intense scrutiny around the world. It has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera with 140-degree field of view.

Facebook Inc on Monday released a smart speaker created to ease video calls, but the company’s history of privacy mishaps and the device’s price and limited functionality could slow it from taking on market leaders Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Both Portals come with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. Both come in white or black.

Not a lot of us trust Facebook.

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?

According to Facebook you can either disable the camera and microphone with a single touch, or disable the camera with a built-in cover, while still allowing you to take incoming calls and notifications and use voice commands. Users activate the device by using the wake word “Portal” to make calls.

The smaller Portal packs a 10-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution, while the Plus gets you a 15-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their “mission” rather than business models and profits, but it is clear that wireless speakers and video calls represent a growing market. They can also play music, stream video, and do anything Amazon Alexa can do.

Your friends don’t need to own a Portal to receive your calls; as long as they have Facebook Messenger on their smartphone or tablet, you’re good to go, with up to seven different people on one call. Portal’s camera doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are.

“Yet the fancy gadget’s success depends not on functionality, but whether people are willing to put a Facebook camera and microphone in their home even with a physical clip-on privacy shield”, TechCrunch wrote in its review.

As for privacy, Facebook claims they’re taking it very seriously.

The move also marks Facebook’s first foray into the hardware space outwith Oculus – the VR headset company it snapped up in 2014. If you want to try and get oen for yourself anyway, with some importing methods, they’ll cost $199 (£152) and $349 (£268) respectively.

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We’ve reached out to Facebook to find out about global availability and will update with any new information. Select content partners like Spotify ($SPOT), Pandora ($P), Food Network, and Newsy are integrated into the devices at launch, with plans to add more services over time.

Facebook built two models of Portal one is 10 inches and the Plus is 15 inches costing $200 and $350 respectively