Facebook Portal smart displays put Messenger on your countertop

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

Facebook's new Portal smart displays will make it easier for Facebook users to contact each other.

Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but wireless speakers and video calls are a growing market.

Along with video chatting through Facebook Messenger, both Portal devices have built-in Amazon Alexa.

The company has also been heavily linked with making its own smart speaker to rival the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but no such device has yet appeared.

Facebook is out with its first hardware products: the Portal and Portal+ - Smart Displays meant to live in your living room or kitchen which are primarily meant for doing video calls. The Portal comes with a 10-inch display that has 720P resolution. Portal and Portal+ are 10- and 15-inch smart displays complete with integrated cameras and packed with AI.

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

Still, Amazon has shipped 1 million of its Echo speakers with displays over the last year, according to research firm Canalys, which expects 4 million such devices across brands to ship globally next year. However, preorders will be limited to USA buyers initially - Amazon and Best Buy will also stock them.

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Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.

Facebook Portal+. The larger device can also pivot.

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. You can use the AR effects with a feature called Story Time to "bring stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals". Portal uses Facebook Messenger to make video calls, which the company says are encrypted.

Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls.

Facebook also says that the AI features Smart Camera and Smart Sound work locally, and therefore do not send any data back to the social network. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use. (Amazon keeps audio recordings of requests you make to Alexa through the Portal; Facebook does not.) There are no ads on the Portal - at least for now.

But the Portal, reportedly delayed from an earlier launch by the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, will pay an extra price for Facebook's years of playing fast and loose with our privacy. Facebook allows you to disable the camera and microphone, which supposedly physically disconnects them.

"Frankly if we don´t build the hardware, I do have concerns", Bosworth admitted, saying it was crucial to put "people first" whether delivering a platform for virtual reality or augmented reality. Additionally, you can also receive $100 off any two devices, meaning a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298. Finally, the Portal devices will support additional apps, including Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, Newsy, as well as Facebook Watch.

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