Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

Facebook launches Portal, Portal

Facebook launches Portal, Portal

The larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 display that can be oriented vertically or horizontally. For those who are fearless enough with their data to purchase two, there's a $100 discount.

For a while we've been hearing rumours about Facebook developing its own smart devices, specifically smart speakers and smart displays (ala Echo Show).

The Portal and Portal+ are new video calling devices which feature built-in speakers and large touchscreens. It is available for pre-order now.

Facebook's new Portal smart displays will make it easier for Facebook users to contact each other. The former features a 10.1-inch screen with WXGA resolution and 10W speakers, while the latter features a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 20W speakers and a 4-inch bass woofer. It looks a lot like the original Amazon Echo Show, and even comes in an optional black color scheme. However, putting history aside, Facebook chose to launch their first Facebook-branded piece of hardware today, the Portal. They offer Facebook and Messenger on their touchscreens to connect loved ones and friends over the internet - displaying live video or profile pages simply and hands-free.

The speaker will go on sale in the USA in November.

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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.

If you're a company reeling from a data leak affecting 50 million users - not to mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal - what do you do next? In addition, a number of Portal's features are opt-in, and there is no video recording feature. The camera is created to crop into you and even track your movement as you move about and can detect when there are multiple people in the room and frame accordingly. If there are a bunch of people chatting, the camera will zoom out in an attempt to get everyone into the shot at the same time. Smart Sound minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move.

"Our goal is to make you feel present in the same space as the person on the other end", said Rafa Camargo, the Facebook vice president overseeing Portal.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button. These speakers can serve as hub-like controllers for "smart" homes as people install appliances, lighting and security systems that can be controlled over the internet. Additionally, those AI features, which were mentioned earlier, all run locally so Facebook doesn't need to receive any data to enable those features. Facebook said it can distinguish between different users and focus on them, but does not use facial recognition.

You can also access your Spotify Premium account through the new devices. Portal will set you back $199 while Portal Plus will cost $349. You can also receive $100 United States dollars off any two devices - this means a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298 USD, so you can share the experience right out of the box. Both devices have a four-mic array that's created to pick up your voice no matter where you are in the room.

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