Facebook launches Portal, Portal

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Facebook has revealed a new video calling device that could put a camera in millions of homes, marking a major move into hardware for the social networking giant.

"With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, Portal from Facebook improves video calling and lets you enjoy quality time with family and friends".

Aside from acting as a smart speaker around the house and competing against similar products like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple's HomePod, the Portal will have an extra trick up its sleeve. If you pre-order both, you will receive a $100 discount.

The Portal devices utilise Facebook Messenger, allowing you to talk to anyone on your Messenger contact list even if they're on a phone or tablet.

To manage Portal access within your home, you can set a four- to 12-digit passcode to keep the screen locked.

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant in its bid for a slice of a market now dominated by Amazon and Google. Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are. Facebook built the device using Amazon's Alexa to help respond to queries from consumers, because the social network does not have its own such virtual assistant. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use. Fast-forward to this Monday, and after the reported delay, Facebook has quietly unveiled the Portal video-chat and smart speaker platform.

The larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 display that can be oriented vertically or horizontally. You'll be able to access Augmented Reality effects on your video calls, just like on Messenger.

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And it also comes bundled with Amazon's voice interface "Alexa", enabling users to shop or control household appliances. But the company chose to delay the launch by six months due to the unfolding Cambridge Analytica scandal, amid concerns that it was the wrong time to ask users to trust Facebook with more personal information.

This uses the Portal's Smart camera feature to transform your face and voice into those of the story's characters, meaning you can still give your kids (or your pets) un-rivaled bedtime tales no matter how far away you are. Both models come with screens and cameras, as Facebook wants customers to use them for video calls.

Two versions of the video calling device have been announced, Portal and Portal Plus.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, which is basically a giant display with a speaker.

Portal will be available in November, with prices starting at $199 for the standard model, which features a 10-inch 720p display and two speakers. And to start the call, all it takes is: "Hey Portal".

Conspiracy theories aside, it's good to see that there's a department in Facebook that's putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to user data protection... but the way the Portal is built can also be perceived as an extremely limiting experience too. Facebook has partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, as well as Facebook Watch, Food Network and Newsy with mode on the way.

During a conversation, the integrated camera can automatically zoom out to include a second person, or be instructed to follow a certain individual as they walk around.

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