Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Facebook pushes into smart home space with Portal - a camera-equipped speaker

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device Facebook introduces Portal and Portal+ with prices starting at $199
Oscar Goodwin | 09 October, 2018, 11:13

And the company is clearly aware of that - so the device is created to respect your privacy, at least according to Facebook.

On Monday, Twitter users were quick to point to Facebook's privacy fallacies and what they saw as the company's impudence in asking people to trust it with a camera called Portal inside their homes. Third-party apps like Spotify can run ads. And Pandora, iHeart Radio and other streaming services can be played through the built-in speakers.

That said, Facebook says Portal does not collect any information about people's home, listening only for voice commands. The first is simply called Portal and features a 10-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800. It has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera with 140-degree field of view.

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

Both Portals come with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. Users can ask for things like weather forecasts, traffic updates, and sports scores, but it's unclear if all of Alexa's more than 50,000 skills are available on Portal devices. The data affair uncovered problems with how Facebook allows third parties to access data it's gathered on its 2.2 billion monthly users.

Facebook uses AI in order to enhance the video and sound, these features are dubbed Smart Camera and Smart Sound. You can completely disable the camera and microphone with just a single tap, and both the Portal and Portal+ come with a camera cover to easily block the lens at any time.

The company says Facebook's privacy policy applies to Portal, since it uses Messenger for voice and video calls. The smaller of the two options, the Portal, offers a 10-inch display, while the Portal+ jumps up to a 15-inch display that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

Facebook said that despite this it doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of video calls, which are encrypted.

Your friends don't need to own a Portal to receive your calls; as long as they have Facebook Messenger on their smartphone or tablet, you're good to go, with up to seven different people on one call. The devices don't have facial recognition and do not identify who is using the device as well.

Amazon's Echo Show can make video Drop-In calls as well as video calls through the Alexa app. Amazon will be adding support for Skype video chatting in the future, too.

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. If you want to try and get oen for yourself anyway, with some importing methods, they'll cost $199 (£152) and $349 (£268) respectively.

Although Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house.

First going on sale in the United States in November, Portal will come with a 10in display for video calls, or a 15in display on the Portal+. Both devices also feature a button that turns their cameras physically off. Smart Camera helps you read a fun story via a simple teleprompter, perfectly framed, while your loved ones on the other side watch as your face and voice transform into the story's characters.

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