Marking its first foray into the world of hardware, Facebook have announced that they will be releasing The Portal — a Facebook-centric smart speaker.
The Portal, which will be available in two different sizes, will act as a video call machine which will connect with Facebook Messenger, as well as being compatible with Amazon Alexa.
Unlike most of the smart speakers on the market right now, the Facebook Portal will be equipped with an AI camera — dubbed Smart Camera — which will follow the speaker around and automatically zoom in on them when they’re speaking. This could make for easy video calls even when you’re doing something else — like cooking, for instance.
It’s this technology that’s prompting Facebook to market the device as something more akin to “hanging out”, rather than for utilitarian calls.
The Portal (10.1 inch display) and The Portal Plus (15.6 inch display) can be used in either portrait or landscape mode, and are powered on with the command, “Hey, Portal.”
The smaller screen will be launched at $199 and the larger one at $349. As you’d expect at such a large price differentiation, the Portal Plus will also be boasting a higher definition screen (1080p vs 720p), as well as more sophisticated speaker technology.
Of course, many people will be questioning Facebook’s logic here at launching these smart home products at a time when the company is under heavy scrutiny following a massive customer data breach, with the product briefing coming just one day after the hacking scandal broke.
Some critics are particularly hostile to the news, with Forbes‘ leading the charge saying that, “either Facebook thinks we’re all a bunch of morons ready to give more of our blood to the tech giant, or we actually are a bunch of morons” — let’s face it, they’ve got a point.
But as most of the critics have pointed out, since when have data breaches and security concerns stopped us before?
The US market is practically rabid for smart home devices and the news that one of their favorite social media sites (or at least the one they love to hate the most) is releasing one such a product will likely prove to be catnip.