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Portal from Facebook: 2 Smart video calling devices launched

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Taking on Amazon and Google in the smart home space, Social media giant Facebook has unveiled a pair of artificial intelligence-powered smart video chat devices, Portal and Portal +, which are designed to connect people and feel like being in the same room.

Facebook on Monday said the new video communication speakers with tablet-size screens for the home could dramatically change the way people keep in touch and their built-in AI technology makes video calling more comfortable, and more like hanging out, Xinhua reported.

The debut of the Facebook-brand-bearing electronic gadgets represents the social network’s first bold entry into the fray in a competition of consumer hardware with other internet giants such as Amazon and Google, which launched their smart speakers years ago.

“With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, Portal from Facebook improves video calling and lets you enjoy quality time with family and friends. You can also opt for a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 pivoting display with Portal+,” Facebook said in a statement.

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The Portal, which is equipped with a 10-inch 1280×800 display, can let users video chat with their families and friends over Facebook Messenger, while the Portal + has a 15-inch 1920×1080 pivoting display.

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the US and will begin shipping in November. Portal home comes for $199 and Portal+ will cost $349.

Facebook said the two speakers are powered by AI as well as smart camera and sound technology that let users have a better, more convenience and hands-free experience. The speaker’s Smart Camera can sense the movement and action, and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

Portal from Facebook: 2 Video calling devices launched

While the two Facebook-branded hardware makes consumers’ home smarter and better connected with family members, there is growing concern about user privacy that could arise from internet-related technology, especially after Facebook has been questioned about its privacy policy since a data breach scandal earlier this year.

“You can also receive $100 off any two devices — this means a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298,” Facebook added.

The video chat speakers come with Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology. Smart Camera stays with the action and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

Smart Sound minimises background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move.

“You can call Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they don’t have Portal. Calls can be made to and from Messenger-enabled smartphones and tablets. Portal supports group calls of up to seven people at the same time,” said the social media platform.

Portal from Facebook: 2 Smart video calling devices launched

Portal offers hands-free voice control. You can start a video call simply by saying ‘Hey Portal’ and noting who you’d like to call. Portal also comes with Amazon Alexa built in.

Portal and Portal+ also come with a camera cover, so users can block the camera’s lens at any time and still receive incoming calls and notifications, including using voice commands.

“To manage Portal access within your home, you can set a four- to 12-digit passcode to keep the screen locked. Changing the passcode requires your Facebook password,” the statement said.

When people are not on a call, Portal’s “Superframe” can display favourite photos and videos and important notifications like birthday reminders.

Facebook has been extensively challenged about its security measures in protecting users’ sensitive data since a British data mining firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally accessing the data of 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned to a hearing in US Congress in April to explain the firm’s privacy policies.

Last month, Facebook reported vulnerabilities in its account login mechanism that could affect more than 90 million users, who risked having their private information including names and passwords accessed by hackers.

Also read: Why did Instagram co-founders leave Facebook?