Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes

10 October, 2018, 10:23 | Author: Kristen Mcgee
  • Facebook built two models of Portal one is 10 inches and the Plus is 15 inches costing $200 and $350 respectively

Facebook is promoting the Portal devices as a way to communicate, focusing on video calling - the device's camera will automatically zoom into the main subject in the camera when you are in a video call thanks to the Smart Camera feature, for example.

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

The company worked with a United States film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team.

As previously rumored, the Portal family will have two versions: The more affordable Portal model priced at $199, and the high-end Portal+ that will cost $399.

Finally, security. Facebook included a camera cover for both video calling devices so it can be hidden while not being used.

Portal and Portal+ also come with a camera cover, so you can easily block your camera's lens at any time and still receive incoming calls and notifications, plus use voice commands. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too. While the built-in camera can track users around the room, Facebook says the camera does not use face recognition, and the AI that handles the tracking lives on the device instead of on Facebook's servers.

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Both models also include an internet-connected speaker that features Amazon's voice-activated digital assistant, Alexa. It features a pivoting 15-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. The only other time Facebook tried to sell hardware was in 2013, when it built the software for a custom HTC phone that flopped. The company says the camera only runs locally, it does not connect to its servers and the only recordings it keeps are voice commands that people can see in their activity logs and can be deleted.

With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls. The device will allow users to disable the camera and microphone with a single tap and to lock it with a numerical passcode. It does less than the Echo Show or Google Smart Displays - there's no YouTube to make it double as a kitchen TV, for one.

The camera is powered by artificial intelligence, and the Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology "take all the guesswork out of video calling", Facebook says. Video and voice calls are encrypted and contents of them are not stored, the company said.

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit that the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016.

As for privacy, Facebook claims they're taking it very seriously. Facebook partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, and Newsy - and it promised to add more soon. The company mentioned that it doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls.

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