Facebook debuts new video chatting device Portal amid privacy and security concerns

09 October, 2018, 05:09 | Author: Patty Hardy
  • Facebook's new Portal device

Facebook's new Portal and Portal+ smart displays.

With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, the Portal is part of Facebook's mission to improve video calling by making it "completely hands and distraction free". But Facebook says it has crafted its Portal gadgets, launched this week, to be as un-creepy as possible.

Portal also has Alexa built-in, so you can use it just like an Echo, including controlling your compatible smart home accessories with it. 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. The larger Portal+ has an HD 15.6-inch screen that can swivel between vertical and horizontal views.

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the USA - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November.

Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer. Naturally, being an Alexa device it also has access to all of Amazon's AI tools. though it's not clear whether it'll have the same extras as the Echo Show.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.

The speaker will go on sale in the United States in November. However, putting history aside, Facebook chose to launch their first Facebook-branded piece of hardware today, the Portal.

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Facebook has also said that it's incorporating AR effects into the new video calling devices, with "Story Time" created to bring bedtime stories to life with colorful visuals and custom sound effects.

Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, "Hey Portal". "If you buy the Portal, you have to really want to video chat with other people on Facebook, and do so from one room in your home, on something other than the phone or laptop or tablet that you likely already have".

On Monday, Facebook unveiled the $200 (U.S.) Portal, the first-ever consumer hardware from the world's largest social network.

The real head-scratching thing about the Portal is that while you'll be able to use it to browse your Facebook photos and videos and check the weather, Facebook's laser focus on video calling means you won't be able to view other tenets of the core Facebook experience such as the News Feed using the Portal. "Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are", it adds. The two devices are priced at $199 and $349 respectively and are available from Facebook, Amazon, and Best Buy.

Facebook is a software company famous for pushing out products quickly and adjusting later depending on the level of uproar. Even as these two tech giants team up, though, Facebook has asserted ownership over the device by offering its own voice controls, as well.

Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers, with it only sending voice commands to the servers after hearing, "Hey Portal".



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