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Yolanda Curtis
October 9, 2018

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

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

The Portal is a sleek new video camera and screen that makes chats with family and friends look great. 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.

It's not year clear when Facebook will be launching the devices in markets outside the USA, or how much they'll cost, but we've reached out to Facebook and we'll update this story as soon as we know more.

While Facebook's video calling smart home devices have always been in the works, the wake of another major data privacy scandal doesn't feel like the best time for a product launch. Facebook has incorporating augmented reality (AR) effects - powered by their Spark AR platform - to make calls fun and interactive.

In order to make the Portal hands-free, Facebook has enabled voice controls - all you have to do is say "Hey Portal" followed by the name of who you would like to call to start a video chat.


To help assuage privacy concerns, Facebook developed a physical privacy shutter that can be placed over Portal's wide-angle camera.

Facebook also touts Amazon Alexa integration, but it's unclear how deeply Amazon's voice assistant is embedded into these devices.

Facebook has also said that it's incorporating AR effects into the new video calling devices, with "Story Time" created to bring bedtime stories to life with colorful visuals and custom sound effects.

With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls. The device only sends voice commands to Facebook's servers after the words "Hey, Portal" are said, according to Camargo. If you don't want to use Alexa, either, you can flick a switch that disables the camera and microphone altogether.

Facebook is now accepting pre-orders for the new devices and will be shipping them next month.

It does seem theoretically possible to turn the smaller Portal on its side to achieve a portrait mode view, but until we get some hands-on time with the device we don't know if that's an available option.


Facebook declined to elaborate further on whether Watch or other Facebook apps would run ads in the future.

Plenty of people will scoff at the idea of bringing a Facebook-made smart display into their homes, especially ones with cameras and mics.

But Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer.

"The first thing consumers are going to wonder is 'how much sensitive data is this collecting about me?'" said John Breyault, vice president of public policy of telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group that has received donations from Facebook and other tech companies.

Finally, security. Facebook included a camera cover for both video calling devices so it can be hidden while not being used.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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