Putting a new face on the social network, Facebook has announced its Portal line of countertop video displays and cameras, designed to enable video calling with Facebook friends or Messenger contacts. Clearly ideated to embrace the video-everywhere mantra of the Menlo Park company, the two-way communications devices also enable access to music services, video content, news, and other services yet to be developed.
Portal and Portal+ Versions
Available in Portal and Portal+ variations, the first tabletop devices consist of a video display, smart camera, microphones, and speakers. Both are designed to be hands free, and have the Amazon Alexa assistant built in to enable voice commands for video calling. The devices respond to voice commands beginning with the “Hey Portal” prefix. Furthermore, by association with Alexa they deliver broad voice activation capability for controlling smart home accessories, sports scores, checking on the weather, and much more as bounded only by the Amazon engine.
The Portal is an Amazon Echo Show-type device, with a fixed, iPad-sized 10-in. landscape display giving 1280 x 800 resolution. The Portal+ does plus-sized in a big way, with a 15-in. 1920 x 1080 pivoting display that can rotate 90 degrees to better fit the desired scene.
The integral smart camera has a pan-and-zoom capability with an AI-assisted follow-me capability that keeps the human subjects centered in the frame. And in a nod to the obvious questions about Facebook privacy, there is a flip-down camera lens cover for positive video blocking.
In a pseudo-nod to the popular Apple Animoji feature, Facebook has included Story Time, a story-telling feature that can add augmented reality (AR) effects to the subject of a video call. This takes advantage of the Facebook Spark AR platform.
More Privacy Features
In addition to the camera lens cover, the camera and microphone can be disabled with a tap. Within the home, Portal can also be secured with a numeric passcode that can only be changed from the connected Facebook account.
Facebook also states they will not listen to, view, or retain content from video calls made through the device.
The Portal can be pre-ordered for an estimated November delivery at a cost of $199. Portal+ can also be pre-ordered for November delivery at a cost of $349. In addition to selling them through the new Portal website, Facebook says the new devices will be available from Amazon and BestBuy.