Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal+ Video Calling Devices

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Facebook is out with its first hardware products: the Portal and Portal+ — Smart Displays meant to live in your living room or kitchen which are primarily meant for doing video calls. 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.

Both devices feature “Hey Portal” voice recognition and have tight integration with Facebook services. This means the ability to do voice or video calls over Facebook Messenger and Facebook Watch integration. They also have Spotify and Pandora integration.

Portal and Portal+ have two AI-based features: Smart Camera and Smart Sound. The former automatically pans and zooms to ensure that everyone is in view in a video cal, while the latter minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking.

Facebook Portal

The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s upcoming Home Hub smart display. However, the Portal devices also feature Alexa integration so one can use Amazon’s voice assistant for checking the weather, controlling their smart home devices, and more.

Privacy is a big issue with Facebook especially with recent developments which is why the company is putting a lot of emphasis on it. Users can completely disable the camera and microphone on the Portal and Portal+ with a single tap. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use. Facebook is also providing users with the option to set a 4 to 12-digit passcode for Portal before anyone can use it.

The social networking giant is also making it clear that it “doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls.” All video calls over Portals are encrypted. All AI features like Smart Camera and Smart Sound run locally and no data is sent to Facebook’s servers whatsoever. The devices don’t have facial recognition and do not identify who is using the device as well. Lastly, Portal only sends those voice commands to Facebook servers which are said after the “Hey Portal” keyword. And even that can be easily deleted from one’s Facebook Activity Log.

The Portal and Portal+ go up for pre-orders starting today, with the former priced at $199 and the latter at $349. If you pre-order both, you will receive a $100 discount. The devices will start shipping in November.

Our Take

Compared to Amazon Echo Show, the Portal devices seem pretty limited in nature with a strong emphasis being laid on video calling. Interestingly, one cannot even use the devices to browse their FB newsfeed which is really telling. To me, it does not look like the Portal or Portal+ are going to win customers over as they seem extremely limited in nature. What do you think about Facebook’s first hardware products?


[Via FB Newsroom]