Facebook debuts smart speaker for Messenger video calls

Facebook debuts smart speaker for Messenger video calls

The device is known by the name of "Portal" and Facebook is trying to advertising it as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat without having to worry about positioning and controlling the device during video calls.

The company, which saw its trust ranking collapse in the 2018 FutureBrand Index, was at pains to explain the security features in its announcement for the device which is yet to have an Australian release date. Facebook says it will also encrypt all video calls, and store all of its AI learning locally on the individual device, not on Facebook's servers. The tag line says it all: "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there". The Facebook Portal and Portal+ products will be available in November. You can also receive $100 United States dollars off any two devices - this means a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298 USD, so you can share the experience right out of the box. 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.

The Facebook Portal uses an AI-powered camera to pan, zoom, and reframe the picture.

Both of the Portals are created to be used from a distance of between 5ft to 10ft (1.5m to 3m) - further than video calls are typically made from using smartphones and other computers. The only time when the Portal only sends your voice commands to the Facebook servers, when you use the phrase Hey Phrase.

Portal integrates Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to handle search queries, and Amazon collects audio files of requests made to Alexa. This device with 10 inch screen for $230.

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Facebook will offer Portal in two sizes - a $199 model with a 10-inch horizontal screen and a $349 "Plus" version with a 15.6-inch screen that can switch between vertical or horizontal orientations. The Facebook Portal and Portal+ are now available to pre-order in the United States from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy.

"Portal supports group calls of up to seven people at the same time", said the social media platform. More specifically, it was the "Alexa built-in" phrase featured prominently on the screen of the Portal devices.

Facebook expects to stand apart on the market because of Portal's touchscreen and the 400 million people who call through its Messenger service each month worldwide. Calls can be made to and from Messenger-enabled smartphones and tablets.

Although Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house. Portal closely resembles Amazon's Echo Show. Both devices also have a camera cover for when they're not in use, which won't block incoming calls or notifications. The Portal and Portal+ can play music through Spotify Premium, Pandora and iHeartRadio, or stream video from Facebook Watch, Food Network, and Newsy.

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