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Facebook announces video communication devices amidst rising security breach concerns

12 October 2018

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

The flagship device - the Portal+ - features a 15.6in (39.6cm) 1080p display that can be rotated on its stand to appear in landscape or portrait mode.

The camera can be blocked by a cover and the device has a button for disabling both the lens and the microphone. The device is called Portal and its premise is eerily creepy to one of those paintings whose eyes follow you when you move. There is a $50 rebate applicable on both devices as a one-time offer for the initial buyers who place their orders before November 12, which is also when the device will start to ship.

The device is known by the name of "Portal" and Facebook is trying to advertising it as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat without having to worry about positioning and controlling the device during video calls. Furthermore, the AI tech runs locally and only commands after the initial "Hey Portal" get sent to Facebook servers for processing.

The idea behind the portal is to make you feel connected to your loved ones by providing a casual at home video call with voice and video clarity.

The Smart Camera allows for automatic pan and zoom, so everyone involved in a video conversation can stay in view, while Smart Sound minimises the effect of background noise and enhances the voice of the person talking.

Portal speakers are meant to aid in video calls though skeptics are concerned this might prove to be another avenue for hackers.

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. "Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are", the company says. The larger-screen alternative called the Facebook Portal Plus. Those Instagram and Snapchat face filters will also come to the big screen here via Facebook's Spark AR platform, so you can chat with people while sporting a cartoon face, if you prefer.

Amazon's Echo and Google's Home smart speakers have been surprise hits. Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio tunes can all be streamed via voice commands, with Amazon's Alexa handling any shouted instructions, musical or otherwise (despite Portal competing with Amazon's Echo range and Amazon's music services not being integrated at launch). A handful of animated e-books will also be included for interactive story time.

Anyway, Portals will start shipping in the United States next month to anyone courageous enough to take the plunge.

Preorders for the device are ongoing but Facebook is not shipping until November in the USA and other parts of the word (currently unknown).

Portal home comes for $199 and Portal+ will cost $349.

Facebook announces video communication devices amidst rising security breach concerns