Monday, 22 October, 2018

Facebook’s Alexa-powered smart display is called Portal, and it’s enormous

Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes  08 Oct 2018- 15:55
Olivia Ford | 09 October, 2018, 11:12

The inclusion of Amazon's software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices. Dave Kaufman, the marketing lead for Facebook's Portal division, commented on the device stating: "Portal+ and Portal really live up to that idea of helping you feel closer and allowing you to spend more quality time with people, even if they live thousands of miles away from you". However, preorders will be limited to United States buyers initially - Amazon and Best Buy will also stock them. And Pandora, iHeart Radio and other streaming services can be played through the built-in speakers. Lastly, Portal only sends those voice commands to Facebook servers which are said after the "Hey Portal" keyword.

Portal, and a larger 15-inch Portal+ model, is billed by Facebook has a smart home device created to let users make calls to friends and family.

Both Portals come with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.

The 10-inch version retails at $199 and is available for pre-order today, with shipping slated for November. Both come in white or black. Facebook hasn't been the most forthcoming company when it comes to letting users know which data it collects and how it's using that data.

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. Users activate the device by using the wake word "Portal" to make calls. The smaller of the two options, the Portal, offers a 10-inch display, while the Portal+ jumps up to a 15-inch display that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

Despite a firestorm of privacy scandals that have engulfed the company over the past year, Facebook wants to put its own smart speaker in your home. Powered by Facebook Messenger, Portal can be used to conduct video chats with other Portal users, or those using Messenger on mobile devices or desktops. Call out, "Portal, call Geoffrey", and it'll ring my home Portal or the Facebook Messenger app on my phone.

Facebook struck partnerships with companies to bolster the abilities of its Portal devices.

Facebook has been working for months on the voice-activated device, its answer to Google Home and Amazon Echo, but it reportedly got cold feet about the timing of its release, since it was busy responding to data abuses revealed in the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica.

But lets face it, this is Facebook we are talking about, a company that has very loose definitions of the term privacy and has been repeatedly slammed in the past few years for misusing people's private data. The cameras and the microphones in these two devices can be disabled with a switch. I couldn't shake the feeling that Facebook eventually wanted to run its facial-recognition tech on my chats, or peer into my living room to see what products I buy in order to target future ads. And how many people are going to make jokes about Facebook opening a portal to... somewhere? While some might find that creepy, Facebook says the goal is to show people they don't have to be stuck in front of the screen to communicate.

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