Facebook is Adding Instant Games and a Web Browser to Its Portal Devices

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Facebook officially unveiled its first attempt at hardware earlier this year, showcasing a pair of video chat devices called Portal and Portal+.

At the time of the unveiling, and right at launch, there wasn’t much going on with the Facebook Portal devices other than serving as a glorified way to make video calls via Facebook Messenger. But it looks like the social network has decided to add a few new elements to the mix, giving the Portal more to do than just make video calls.

As reported on Friday by The Verge, both Portal devices received an update today that marks the arrival of not only a full-fledged web browser, but also the addition of Facebook’s Instant Games. That means Portal owners will be able to play games like Words With Friends and Battleship to start, with more titles expected to arrive at a later date.

The web browser means you can visit sites like YouTube to watch videos there on the big displays, which is a nice touch. But it broadens the scope and capability of the Portal devices, just by giving users access to the web on their devices. It’s probably a feature that should have been there right from the start, but better late than never, right?

That’s not all, though. Facebook is bringing Great Big Story, the documentary series, to its video chat devices with the help of NBC and CNN. Facebook says a library of “human interest stories” is coming soon to the devices, but no exact launch date for that yet. There are augmented reality features for the built-in camera while in a video call, a manual mode for the camera, and the ability to share songs form iHeartRadio as well.

Portal has always been a risky bet for Facebook, but it didn’t help matters when it was confirmed, after the unveiling of the devices, that the social network could indeed use them to target users with ads. Still, it stands to reason that some people out there feel comfortable enough having a Portal device in their home, so these new features should be a welcomed addition.

[via The Verge]