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Facebook launches artificial intelligence video-calling device ‘Portal’

09 October, 2018, 01:14 | Author: Tara Roberts
  • Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

Portal will also have an advantage over Amazon and Google's smarthome devices, being able to call any smartphone that has Facebook Messenger installed. We know, that sounds a little spooky, but Facebook has an extensive dedicated privacy section on the Portal website detailing everything that might give you pause.

The Portal uses an array of four far-field microphones that records your conversations picks up your voice commands and a 12MP wide-angle camera that watches you sleep lets you make video calls. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too.

There were 17 billion video calls made on Messenger in 2017, double the number in 2016, according to official data. The inclusion of Amazon's software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices. The toaster-size gadget, along with a larger $350 version called Portal+, is a cross between a smart speaker, video camera and digital photo frame.

Facebook has moved into the hardware field with a couple of alternatives to Amazon's Echo Show.

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The device, which will be available for pre-order in the United States from Monday, is created to allow users to make video calls at home without having to stand immediately in front of the screen or hold a phone at arm´s length. The camera is created to crop into you and even track your movement as you move about and can detect when there are multiple people in the room and frame accordingly. For those concerned about privacy, both Portals have a button that mutes their mics, as well as a physical cover for the camera. If you don't want to use Alexa, either, you can flick a switch that disables the camera and microphone altogether. 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.

They are only available for pre-order in the USA at present, priced at $199 (around £152) and $349 respectively.

Portal, and a larger 15-inch Portal+ model, is billed by Facebook has a smart home device created to let users make calls to friends and family.

When you're not video chatting, you can use Portal to watch shows on Facebook Watch or The Food Network, or to stream music from Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartRadio. Even as these two tech giants team up, though, Facebook has asserted ownership over the device by offering its own voice controls, as well. You can save $100 when buying two of them at the same time, and these will also be available at other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. Two different models were announced today, the Portal and the larger Portal+.

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