Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

Facebook launches camera-equipped screen

Facebook launches camera-equipped screen

Reports indicate that it is unlikely that Portal becomes the next Alexa; however, if the device is widely successful like Amazon's, the company might be able to take the breath of fresh air it's been craving.

The flagship device - the Portal+ - features a 15.6in (39.6cm) 1080p display that can be rotated on its stand to appear in landscape or portrait mode.

You also have added security control over Portal with the option of setting passwords and disabling its microphone and camera.

Facebook has said that the Portal devices do not record video calls, and each call is encrypted. Apple also offers FaceTime video chat on iPads that use WiFi or cellular connections. Hardware startup Shuzijiayuan's latest product is a smart display called Kinstalk M10, which drew some attention earlier this year because it's powered by Tencent's voice assistant Xiaowei - which let users contact their WeChat and QQ friends on the speaker, and gives them access to Tencent's music and video streaming service.

Facebook acquired VR headset manufacturer company Oculus in 2014, but this is the first time they have produced a consumer hardware product. Credit Facebook for making its video chat devices less creepy than they could have been, but that doesn't make them creepy-free.

"Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, "hey Portal".

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Portal speakers are meant to aid in video calls though skeptics are concerned this might prove to be another avenue for hackers. As well, the smart camera's AI runs locally, not on Facebook servers, and the camera doesn't use facial recognition. The company also revealed that you can make group calls with up to seven people with Portal.

Since Facebook uses Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to power Portal, it will be hard to catch up to Amazon's smart-home saturation. Facebook isn't pre-loading its social networking app or image-messaging app Instagram on Portal, emphasizing the device's role in more active communications instead of passive browsing.

The Portal also shares quite some similarity with the Echo Show, or for that matter, any speaker with an integrated display. Facebook has so far partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, as well as Facebook Watch, Food Network and Newsy.

Another cool feature is Story Time, which has five interactive storybooks you can read. The firm estimated that device makers shipped almost 12 million smart speakers in Q2 2018, about 8 million more than a year ago. More on, Story Time brings stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals.

Now gadgets available for pre-order in the United States, and the mass deliveries will begin in November.

The "Portal" will be available in two sizes - a $199 model with a 25.4-cm horizontal screen and a $349 "Plus" version model with a 39.6-cm screen.

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