Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes

Alfred Osborne
October 11, 2018

As more people enter a room, Smart Camera automatically widens to keep everyone in the frame.

Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but wireless speakers and video calls are a growing market. The smart sound technology minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, irrespective of wherever they are in the room. However, it will not be possible to record.

Portal is a hardware that can be used to call other Portal users or anyone on either Facebook or Facebook Messenger. During calls, it can also play music on Spotify or videos from Facebook Watch, as well as tell children stories via augmented effects app Story Time. Using voice control you can easily begin a call - just say "Hey Portal, call_".

"Privacy is very, very, very important", said Rafa Camargo, vice president of Portal on Monday, "We really made a conscious choice of not recording, so you have peace of mind".

Facebook is looking to take video calling to the next level with the AI-powered Portal and Portal+ devices.

In a bid to carve out its share of the smart home devices industry, Facebook has announced the Portal and Portal+.

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Facebook's Portal and Portal+ will be rolling out in the USA from Facebook, Amazon, and Best Buy, and will begin shipping in November. Additionally, the company promised not to "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls" and for added security the device does not utilize facial recognition.

You can also buy your Portal device via Amazon or Best Buy. The 10-inch screen portal is selling at $199 and the 15.6-inch screen variant (portal +) is at $349. Just yesterday, Amazon released a revamped Echo Show with features nearly identical to Portal's.

Much of the coverage around the launch of Facebook's Portal devices likens them to the smart speakers that other companies have launched.

The release of Portal comes at a sensitive time, after Facebook was hit by high-profile data scandals this year regarding user's privacy.

Even if those you want to connect with don't have a Portal device, you can still use yours to get in touch via Facebook Messenger. The firm estimated that device makers shipped almost 12 million smart speakers in Q2 2018, about 8 million more than a year ago. The market for smart home devices is growing rapidly, unlike the more mature smartphone market, giving Facebook an opportunity to gain a foothold in a nascent technology space. The device will allow users to disable the camera and microphone with a single tap and to lock it with a numerical passcode.

Unsurprisingly Facebook installs a version of Messenger on the Portal devices and you can converse freely with other Messenger users whatever platform they might be on. The company has been working on video conference hardware for some time but chose to put the project on hold earlier this year because of public outrage about Facebook's data-privacy practices.

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