Facebook Portal and Portal

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

Facebook describes these machines as ideal for video chatting on Facebook Messenger.

The smaller Portal packs a 10-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution, while the Plus gets you a 15-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution. Facebook is pitching it as a device that will make Messenger video calls easier and "more like hanging out".

You can use Portal to call your Facebook Messenger friends, even if they don't have a portal, and each call supports up to seven people at once.

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But the launch of a product putting a camera into homes is likely to raise privacy issues for the social media giant, which has suffered several data breaches this year involving tens of millions of user accounts. While it appears the two devices have all the usual Alexa-powered smart speaker services built in, what Facebook really wants you to do with Portal is call your friends and family through Facebook Messenger (video calls placed on Portal do not need to be with other Portal owners). The former automatically pans and zooms to ensure that everyone is in view in a video cal, while the latter minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking. Thanks to Alexa from Amazon, you can initiate video calls simply by using your voice, plus a suite of AI tech makes your experience more rich. The company has revealed details about its Amazon Echo competitor, a voice-controlled, webcam-equipped smart screen named Portal. You can completely disable the camera and microphone with just a single tap, and both the Portal and Portal+ come with a camera cover to easily block the lens at any time.

Indeed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg this spring reportedly pushed back the Portal's launch date by almost half a year after the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal blew up. Facebook said it can distinguish between different users and focus on them, but does not use facial recognition.

Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but it is clear that wireless speakers and video calls represent a growing market. Google's smart displays make video calls using the company's Duo chat app.

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The Portal has been priced at $199 while the Portal+ will cost $349. The device only sends voice commands to Facebook's servers after the words "Hey, Portal" are said, according to Camargo. The cameras and the microphones in these two devices can be disabled with a switch. Most of the Portal's chatting features are opt-in, which means the user is shipped a device that gives them the power and onus to choose what features are enabled and disabled. When you're not using the 10-inch touch screen for calls, it displays images from Facebook, such as a shared album you choose. There's also a news service called Newsy that will help you stay up to date.

The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display. This marks Facebook's first physical product aside from the Oculus virtual reality headset which Facebook acquired in 2014.

If you're still reading, let me run down what each speaker has.

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Plenty of people will scoff at the idea of bringing a Facebook-made smart display into their homes, especially ones with cameras and mics.

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