Facebook Portal Smart Displays Come With Alexa, AI Cameras

Gerardo Harmon
October 13, 2018

The Portal is primarily a device for making video calls on Facebook and Messenger.it also uses AI to power the device's Smart Camera and Smart Sound abilities.

Portal was designed as a screen and camera gadget to make video calling more intuitive and immersive by using Artificial Intelligence and motion sensors to detect movement during video calls.

"Privacy is very, very, very important", said Rafa Camargo, vice president of Portal on Monday, "We really made a conscious choice of not recording, so you have peace of mind". Hub sports a 7-inch screen, compared to Facebook's screens at 10.1 and 15.6 inches and Echo's 10 inches.

Facebook said the two speakers are powered by AI as well as smart camera and sound technology that let users have a better, more convenience and hands-free experience.

"Whether you're cooking in the kitchen or chasing the kids around the living room, Smart Camera stays with the action and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view".

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You can call Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they don't have Portal. In addition to one-on-one calls, up to seven Portals can take part in group chats. Facebook said the Portal will even be able to communicate with those who might not have the speaker installed at their end.

In a bid to carve out its share of the smart home devices industry, Facebook has announced the Portal and Portal+.

John Paczkowski, tech and business editor at BuzzFeed News, tweeted that the company's privacy claims were "belly-laugh ludicrous" in light of its security issues. These new devices are created to "improve the experience" you have communicating with friends and family.

Portal will give users multiple ways to lock and turn off the various aspects of the device.

They're not just big screens with a video camera either, as the specs reveal some interesting features too.

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The Portal and larger Portal+ (image via Facebook).

The upgraded version, Portal+, includes a feature that Facebook has dubbed "Smart Camera" where the device can rotate to follow the person in front of the camera and keep them in view.

"We set out to try and make video calling so good that it feels like you're sharing the same physical space as someone else", he said.

To start a call, all one has to do is say: "Hey Portal". But it also uses Alexa as the voice assistant for the devices. You can delete your Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

Preorders for the device are ongoing but Facebook is not shipping until November in the USA and other parts of the word (currently unknown). This isn't the ideal time for Facebook to unveil the video communication device that keeps an eye on what you are doing and listening to what consumers have to say but it seems that the company couldn't hold the Portal announcement any longer.

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