Facebook launches AI video-calling device Portal

Facebook's new Portal device

Save Save Facebook's Portal camera device

Both devices feature "Hey Portal" voice recognition and have tight integration with Facebook services.

Facebook has unveiled the company's first ever hardware product - a video calling device called Portal.

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.

The cheaper Portal has a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display that's fixed in landscape mode, while the Portal+ has a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 screen that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the U.S. - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November. The devices also advertise the ability to enhance the voice of whoever is talking, regardless of where they move, while minimizing background noise. You will also use your existing Facebook or Facebook Messenger account to sign in.

After lengthy rumours Facebook has finally announced Portal, their answer to the Amazon Echo Show. That's why the company has got some privacy in mind, with a button letting you disable the camera and microphone in one single click. That means Portal users can call other Portal users, as well as those with Facebook Messenger installed on their smartphones and tablets.

The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display. Visit portal.facebook.com for more information or to pre-order your Portal today.

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"Facebook is a little bit late to the market for smart speakers", said Tom Morrod, a research director for consumer electronics and telecoms at IHS Markit. Both the devices feature a 12MP camera on the front for pictures and video calls, with 4-microphone array for voice input.

Facebook's advantage over other video-chat services: Chances are, nearly everyone you might want to call already has an account. And how many people are going to make jokes about Facebook opening a portal to... somewhere?

These features have raised some eyebrows, given that Facebook revealed two weeks ago the data of at least 50 million users had been compromised due to vulnerabilities in its own system. Both devices have a four-mic array that's created to pick up your voice no matter where you are in the room.

When you're not using Portal, you can block its camera using the built-in cover. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use.

Although Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house. Facebook will also give you $100 (£77) off if you buy two in one go.

Facebook has just entered the smart speaker business and it's already partnered with three music services: Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio.

The device is controlled via voice commands, users can start a video call with a Facebook friend by saying "Hey Portal, call ..." followed by the name of the Facebook contact they wish to talk to. The processing of users' voice commands happens on the device, not in a Facebook data centre.

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