Facebook unveils smart speaker Portal for making video calls

Facebook unveils smart speaker Portal for making video calls

Facebook unveils smart speaker Portal for making video calls

Facebook announced it is launching a new electronic device, titled Portal, which is meant to optimize video calls for users.

The company, which saw its trust ranking collapse in the 2018 FutureBrand Index, was at pains to explain the security features in its announcement for the device which is yet to have an Australian release date.

Facebook notes that it "doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls". Whether you're moving around the kitchen or chasing the kids through the living room, Portal's Smart Camera adjusts to follow the action.

The company officials also revealed that the Portal would not be going to display Facebook advertisements. You can disable both the camera as well the microphone with a single tap, when not needed. It also has audio tech that focuses on human voices while minimizing background noises, and it allows you to have group video calls with up to six people.

Calls will be encrypted and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. To initiate the machine, you need to say, "Hey Portal" and it will start.

Portal is voice control enabled, but it only sends voice commands to the Facebook servers after you say "Hey Portal".

Indeed, it will be a three-cornered fight as Facebook's Portal enters the arena and battle it out with Amazon's Echo Show and Google's Home Hub.

But despite having Amazon as a retail partner and the Alexa integration, its unclear that Amazon Music can be accessed via Alexa on a Portal speaker. This version also has a slightly larger display (15 inches compared to Portal's 10). Both devices are available now for pre-order in the United States - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November.

To address the security question, obviously Facebook are conscious of the sensitivity around secure communications, Anyone with a connected device, has considered the potential security implication of the communication not being private and are happy continue to use the service. Users can also enjoy AR effects powered by Spark AR in the calls, with visual and sound effects applied - great for story time, says FB. Portal connects calls with the help of the Facebook Messenger app. Just yesterday, Amazon released a revamped Echo Show with features nearly identical to Portal's. Calls can be made to and from Messenger-enabled smartphones and tablets. Still, it's not clear what other kinds of data Facebook will collect about Portal users, such as geographic location, programming preferences or other behavior.

So, to me, it feels like Facebook had a couple of reasons to go with Amazon over Google here- - pushing the "built with Alexa" gets more hype and attention, as Amazon has done a masterful job in marketing its smart assistant. Both devices also have a camera cover for when they're not in use, which won't block incoming calls or notifications.

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