Facebook unveils Portal and Portal

Facebook unveils Portal and Portal

They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to USA customers in early November.

Although Amazon isn't listed as a music partner, Facebook's "Portal" devices do have Amazon Alexa built in. Because the screen pivots, you can have chats in both landscape and portrait mode, unlike the vanilla Facebook Portal which is created to sit in landscape mode only. Facebook says that the smart cameras, although they lack facial recognition feature for now, will be able to follow users while video calls while they are "cooking in the kitchen or chasing the kids around the living room".

However, the second version of Portal - called Portal Plus - is a whole different beast.

Portal's Smart Camera works in tandem with "Smart Sound", which minimizes background noise and hones in on the person speaking for a clearer video call experience. Amazon's smart assistant will handle the more conventional commands, such as setting timers, adding items to a shopping list or checking the weather.

We first heard rumors that Facebook would make a foray into smart speaker hardware a few months ago, well before the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light.

Although Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house.

Unlike the Echo Show and Lenovo Smart Displays, which are more general-purpose devices, the Portal is centered around video chats through Facebook Messenger. Think of it as a personal cinematographer: A 12-megapixel camera - equivalent to the one in most phones - identifies the shape of people within its 140-degree field of view, and pans and zooms to make sure they're always in the frame.

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The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display.

Considering the popularity of Facebook Messenger, a smart display focused on video calls makes sense.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.

Facebook, whose founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently questioned by Congress about the company's privacy practices, clearly anticipated scepticism about it selling an AI device that can see and hear in your home and as such insists that it won't "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls". There is also a one-touch option to completely disable the camera and mute the microphone. Even as these two tech giants team up, though, Facebook has asserted ownership over the device by offering its own voice controls, as well.

Portal represents Facebook's entry into that fray.

They are only available for pre-order in the United States at present, priced at $199 (around £152) and $349 respectively. This means two vanilla Portal devices will cost you $298.

The Portal is available for preorder online and will arrive in stores in November.

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