Facebook launches Portal, Portal

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

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

The device functions as a smart speaker similar to Amazon and Google's own smart home devices, but the Portal includes a camera amongst its features.

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.

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. "Changing the passcode requires your Facebook password", the statement said.

Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, which is basically a giant display with a speaker. The Portal comes with a manual camera cover that covers the lens, physically blocking it from broadcasting video when you don't want to, and additionally has a button that turns off the mic and camera, physically cutting the circuit, so it can't be compromised by hackers who want to tap into your video feed.

Users can make voice calls to anyone in the world or chat with family and friends on an HD video call.

Read the full announcement online. Facebook is pitching it as a device that will make Messenger video calls easier and "more like hanging out". It's supposed to minimize background noise and enhance the speaker's voice during video chats, while the company's Smart Camera technology pans and zooms to keep you in-frame while you video chat. Both are Amazon Alexa-enabled video calling devices. Portal represents a new challenge because hardware is hard to tweak in the wild. But pointing an artificially intelligent camera into peoples' homes could well raise other privacy questions. This marks Facebook's first physical product aside from the Oculus virtual reality headset which Facebook acquired in 2014.

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Earlier this year, Facebook had to acknowledge that as many as 87 million people may have had their data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that worked for the Trump campaign and aimed to use the data to influence elections.

Just before the hack, a study from first-party data firm Jebbit found that in the United States alone, Facebook was ranked as he least-trusted company for users in terms of handing over their personal data in exchange for relevant services.

And it also comes bundled with Amazon´s voice interface "Alexa", enabling users to shop or control household appliances.

In the intervening six months, Facebook has also acknowledged the largest data breach in its history, admitting to regulators that more than 50m accounts were compromised due to a bug that it discovered and fixed in September.

And Facebook seems to be putting privacy front and center for the Portal series, offering users additional features to protect their data.

Facebook will offer Portal in two sizes - a $199 model with a 10-inch horizontal screen and a $349 "Plus" version with a 15.6-inch screen that can switch between vertical or horizontal orientations.

Facebook Portal+. The larger device can also pivot. Call out, "Portal, call Geoffrey", and it'll ring my home Portal or the Facebook Messenger app on my phone.

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