On the heels of last week's new Nearby Friends mapping feature announcement, Facebook revealed that they're following the leads of other tech giants such as Google and Snapchat and expanding into the hardware market with the announcement of their new Facebook video camera.
Offering devices that sit permanently in living rooms and facilitate conversations with friends and family is a different kind of intimate relationship than people already have with Facebook.
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. Thanks to AI technology, Facebook says Portal makes video calling easier and more like hanging out, while a widescreen display lets you enjoy every moment together. The tablet-sized Portal has a 10.1-inch 1200 x 800 display, a built-in 10-watt speaker, and a 12 MP camera.
Facebook is marketing the device, called Portal, as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to fuss with positioning and other controls. For the Portal is basically a device that comes with its own web cam as well as the display to make video calls.
Reports indicate that it is unlikely that Portal becomes the next Alexa; however, if the device is widely successful like Amazon's, the company might be able to take the breath of fresh air it's been craving.
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The company worked with a USA film director to make the camera movements feel natural, said Mr Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team. The device will allow users to disable the camera and microphone with a single tap and to lock it with a numerical passcode. The 10-inch screen portal is selling at $199 and the 15.6-inch screen variant (portal +) is at $349.
Shared experiences are an area that Facebook sees as a workable niche for the Portal devices.
Portal offers hands-free voice control, so users can start a video call simply by saying "Hey Portal" and noting who they'd like to call. Furthermore, it states that the calls over Portal will be encrypted. Smart Camera features 12MP Resolution 8x Zoom 140 Field of View automatically widens to keep everyone in view as it uses AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. While Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify the user, it does follow users during video calls.
And if there is aa breach of trust with the Portal devices, will that not only negatively impact Facebook, but could it also drag Alexa and Amazon (and voice-first in general) down with it? The history of voice commands can be duly accessed, and even deleted upon the user's discretion and the information won't be stored on Facebook' servers too.
Portal and Portal+ are now available for pre-order for $199 and $349 respectively, with shipping scheduled for November.