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Facebook launches video device, says privacy is 'very, very, very important'

09 October 2018
Facebook launches video device, says privacy is 'very, very, very important'

Still reeling from a security breach that affected up to 90 million users, Facebook has announced two new pieces of hardware created to make video chat easier and more immersive than ever.

Facebook's Andrew Bosworth spoke to the BBC, and admitted that there will be concerns from would-be users about the devices: "We understand that inviting a camera and microphone into your home is the kind of thing that will give a consumer pause, especially for a new category of products around video calling that haven't been really common for consumers to have access to". Curiously, you won't be able to use the Portal to send or receive Facebook messages, nor are there other communication apps, such as WhatsApp or Skype.

Facebook unveiled the screen-like device called Portal, which has the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built-in today.

Facebook Inc on Monday released a smart speaker created to ease video calls, but the company's history of privacy mishaps and the device's price and limited functionality could slow it from taking on market leaders Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.

Facebook is now accepting pre-orders for the new devices and will be shipping them next month. Cameras are Silicon Valley's next frontier, and it's trying to persuade us to install them as video-chat devices and security systems. "It enables the Facebook devices to piggy-back on the back of Alexa success".

A smart speaker device by Facebook Inc. called Portal is shown in this photo released by Facebook Inc. from Menlo Park, California, U.S., October 5, 2018.

The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display. Facebook says it and your friends can't look into your house anytime they want: Video chats have to be explicitly accepted before the camera cuts on.

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.

Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. The company says you can completely disable the camera and microphone whenever you want, and it doesn't listen to any of your video calls, either. These new widescreen displays are created to help you feel as though the two of you are in the same room.

Portal's Smart Camera works in tandem with "Smart Sound", which minimizes background noise and hones in on the person speaking for a clearer video call experience.

They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to USA customers in early November.

Facebook is a software company famous for pushing out products quickly and adjusting later depending on the level of uproar.

In addition to their price and size differences, the Portal+ has a more powerful speaker that includes two tweeters with high-range frequency and a single, four-inch bass speaker for richer sound.

Facebook has just entered the smart speaker business and it's already partnered with three music services: Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio.

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".

Portal will cost $199 while Portal Plus will cost $349. The company has revealed details about its Amazon Echo competitor, a voice-controlled, webcam-equipped smart screen named Portal. The processing of users' voice commands happens on the device, not in a Facebook data centre.