Facebook Unveils Smart Speaker With Camera Amid Privacy Concerns

Facebook Introduces AR Enhanced Video Calling Devices

Facebook launches Portal and Portal+ video call devices

The company, which saw its trust ranking collapse in the 2018 FutureBrand Index, was at pains to explain the security features in its announcement for the device which is yet to have an Australian release date.

To allay privacy concerns, Facebook said it doesn't listen to, view or keep the contents of video calls, which are encrypted for security. "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there", it added.

"You can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap". Buy two Portals and get $100 off. Portal devices also support group calls of up to seven people at the same time.

Portal's camera, which uses a form of artificial intelligence to recognise body shapes, is a major marketing point, offering users the convenience of staying in the frame without having to adjust the device.

Both of the Portals are created to be used from a distance of between 5ft to 10ft (1.5m to 3m) - further than video calls are typically made from using smartphones and other computers. These voice-activated gadgets see the social media giant going into competition with Amazon, Apple, Google and others, all of whom seek to be the maker of the device that sits in the corner of everyone's homes responding to shouted commands.

Since Amazon Echo's release almost four years ago, both Google and Apple have followed Amazon in releasing smart speakers designed for use with their other digital services - some of them, at least. With Amazon Alexa built-in Portal, you can check for weather updates, sports scores, control smart home devices, order groceries, and much more. Portal's display is fixed in landscape mode, but Portal+'s screen can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

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The Portal has a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display and Portal+ has a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 display.

There are two models, which are now available for pre-order in the U.S. from the official Facebook Portal website as well as selected retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. It also acts as a Bluetooth speaker, and Spotify Connect lets it power multi-room audio.

The company revealed the pair, Portal and Portal+, on its website yesterday along with a video showcasing the product's aim, where people were sent the device and asked to try it out. The company claims that the Portal will not gather data for ad targeting, but instead record data like call times and lengths, something that is useful for Facebook Messenger to build a better profile of users, according to Camargo.

The new product, called Portal, has been described by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a device that makes video calling feel a lot more like hanging out. The Portal device is being retailed for US$199, and the Portal+ for US$349. Just yesterday, Amazon released a revamped Echo Show with features nearly identical to Portal's. There's also a physical camera cover to prevent recording.

The Portal comes in two variants.

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