Facebook enters smart speaker race with video-calling device

Facebook Introduces AR Enhanced Video Calling Devices

Portal will have Amazon Alexa built in and its Smart Camera will stay with the action and automatically pan and zoom to keep everyone in view.

Another innovative feature that comes with the devices, is that they are created to be used either from a short or long distance, making the video calls via smartphone (where the background is always blurry and pixelated) a thing from the past.

It is programmed to capture quality sound, minimize the background noise, provide real-time video call experience to users. Not just that, but Facebook Portal also features a special software that enhances the sound of people's voices in order to make commands clearer according to Facebook. However, it will not be possible to record.

In a press release Facebook said, "Today, we're excited to announce Portal and Portal+, two new video communication devices for the home that dramatically change the way we keep in touch". Both devices have a pretty clean design - with one seeming like a sleeker-looking Amazon's Echo Show, and the Portal+ looks like a tablet with a 15.6-inch display.

Also, while the Portal leverages its video screen to allow users to apply augmented reality emojis and other AR features to their video calls, the screen doesn't do much more than that. All the calls will be encrypted, and AI technology will run on the Portal, not on Facebook servers.

Facebook fans and foes wondered online if the social network should be trusted as the conduit for a device that serves as an in-home video calling system whjich can follow users as they move around a room.

The Portals are available for pre-order now from Facebook, Amazon, and Best Buy, and shipping will commence in November.

The company states that it won't allow Facebook to listen, view or even keep track of the contents of video calls over Portal.


Portal, however, is cheaper, costing only US$199 each, while the new Echo Show, which has a 10.1-inch screen and a speaker at the bottom of the device, costs US$229.

Portal will give users multiple ways to lock and turn off the various aspects of the device.

Portal connects calls through Facebook's Messenger app, which means that it can connect calls with people who aren't using Portal.

Facebook says it would not store Portal video on its data centers.

The primary on many consumers' minds is the underlying question of whether we should even trust a company like Facebook to have smart devices in our homes. It could signal that Facebook may feel it is too far behind the leaders to try rolling its own assistant out - at least for the time being.

Anyway, Portals will start shipping in the USA next month to anyone fearless enough to take the plunge.

Portal also comes with Amazon Alexa built in. While voice-enabled smart displays like the Portal are in a budding product category, ownership of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home will rise to 48% of US consumers after this holiday season from 32% in August, Adobe Analytics forecast.

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