Monday, Facebook revealed Portal, a smart screen device specifically designed for video chat communication in the home. Users will be able to call friends for face-to-face conversations through voice commands and a Facebook Messenger-centric platform.
The device will come with Amazon Alexa’s virtual voice assistant built into the device’s software—clearly a strategic move to not build out their own virtual assistant. Calls can be made with the command “Hey Portal” followed by the name of the intended contact, and will also respond to any Alexa-enabled commands for searches and connected device control.
The gadget comes in two models: a smaller Portal that with a 10-inch screen, and the Portal Plus that has a larger 15-inch screen and rotation feature. Both screens come in HD and the smart camera self-adjusts to zoom in or out by following users’ movements.
Portal hits the market at a particularly tough period with stiff competition from Amazon’s Echo Show and plans from Google to release a screen-enabled device before the end of this year.
In addition to competition from major players in the field, the company is still in the midst of recovering from their largest data breach to-date, and is likely to face skepticism from consumers regarding privacy.
To combat security concerns, Facebook explicitly details privacy and data information about the Portal in their release. Protections include a 12-digit lock screen passcode, and a physical camera cover to block the device’s lens. As far as user data, Facebook claims that the content of video calls is encrypted and completely unmonitored by the company. Additionally, the AI software runs locally on the device instead of being centralized on Facebook’s servers.
This is the social media company’s first venture into self-branded hardware production from design to manufacturing. The only exception was a phone made in collaboration with HTC First in 2013 that was largely considered a flop.
Pre-sale for the devices is available now, the Portal will cost $199 and the Portal Plus will cost $349 with shipping set to begin in November.
Featured image courtesy of Facebook