Move over smartphones, now you can make video calls with Facebook Portal device

9th Oct 2018
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Soon enough, you can replace your smartphones, tablets and computers with Facebook’s very own ‘video chat device’. What’s more, it can sit in a corner and sense people’s movements to automatically zoom and pan a video.

In a first, Facebook forayed into the hardware space with Portal and Portal Plus – video chat devices designed to make chatting easier with good video and audio quality. These devices are just like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa – but with a twist!

For Portal and Portal Plus, Facebook has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) software called the Smart Camera to sense movements. The devices claim no lag and latency, and put Facebook in direct competition with Google and Amazon for smart home products.

The Portal has a 10.1-inch smart display and costs $199, and the Portal Plus costs $349 with a 15.6-inch screen. Both devices will be shipped in November.

Currently, Facebook has over 2.2 billion users and these devices could be big bets for the company. Facebook said its CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s daughters use a Portal device to chat with their grandparents.

According to CNET, both the Portal and Portal Plus have display augmented reality effects, similar to the digital filter overlays on Instagram or Snapchat – like the 'dog’s ear' filter. They also have a 'Story Time' feature that lets parents tell children stories over video chat with enhanced digital filters.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Calls from Portal can be triggered by “Hey Portal, call …” and the name of the person you want to call. The company has partnered with Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio, so you can also listen to the same song with the people you’re chatting with. You can also watch videos on it through several channels like Food Network and Newsy.

However, with a device in play, Facebook needs to focus on its security even more. The company is already facing a $1.63 billion fine by an EU privacy watchdog for a recent data breach that compromised almost 90 million users.

Will Facebook make its mark in the battle of the devices? There are some exciting times ahead.

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