Facebook Portal wants to connect you to your friends and family through video chat

Tech

Facebook portal will have to compete against Amazon Echo Show and Google’s smart displays.

The world of smart displays feels like the next hyped tech gadget trend. Amazon’s Echo Show was the first to bat and most recently Google partnered with Lenovo and JBL for their Google Home display. Now, Facebook Portal wants a piece of the action. Facebook Portal is a new video calling display from, you guessed it, Facebook.

Facebook calls the Portal and Portal+ video communication devices that use AI technology to give you the best experience in video calling. Like the Lenovo smart Display, the Facebook Portal comes in two sizes. A 10.1″ 1200 x 800 version and a larger 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 version. The larger version has a pivoting feature which makes it a bit more versatile.

Here are a few of the features and talking points from Facebook’s announcement.

Intelligent Design, Invisible TechPowered by AI, Portal’s Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology take all of the guesswork out of video calling, letting you enjoy a more convenient, hands-free experience. Whether you’re cooking in the kitchen or chasing the kids around the living room, Smart Camera stays with the action and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view. Smart Sound minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move. It’s like having your own cinematographer and sound crew direct your personal video calls.

Connect with Facebook and Messenger Friends

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.

Voice Control + Alexa

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 has Amazon Alexa built in, so you have access to a robust voice experience to ask for sports scores, check the weather, control smart home devices, order groceries, and more.

Built with Privacy + Security in Mind

We know that privacy and security are important when you bring new technology into your home. That’s why we designed Portal with tools that give you control:

  • You can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap.
  • 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.
  • 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.

We also want to be upfront about what information Portal collects, help people understand how Facebook will use that information and explain the steps we take to keep it private and secure:

  • Facebook doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling. In addition, video calls on Portal are encrypted, so your calls are always secure.
  • For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are.
  • Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, “Hey Portal.” You can delete your Portal’s voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

You can learn more about (and pre-order) Portal and Portal+ on Facebook’s landing page for the product. Pre-orders are also being taken on Amazon and Best Buy. The devices will start shipping in November and the cost is $199 USD and $349 USD. If you bundle two together, you’ll get $100 USD off the price.

Check out Engadget’s hands-on video of the device below.

What do you think of Facebook Portal? Let us know in the comments below or on GooglePlus, Twitter, or Facebook.

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