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09 October 2018, 05:09 | Megan Pierce
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Facebook is launching the first electronic device to bear its brand, a screen and camera-equipped gadget meant to make video calls easier and more intuitive.
Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but wireless speakers and video calls are a growing market.
The company worked with a U.S. film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for Facebook´s Portal team. The device functions as a smart speaker similar to Amazon and Google's own smart home devices, but the Portal includes a camera amongst its features.
Portal, and a larger 15-inch Portal+ model, is billed by Facebook has a smart home device created to let users make calls to friends and family. The Portal+ has a bigger 15-inch 1920 x 1080 pivoting display. The larger Portal+ has an HD 15.6-inch screen that can swivel between vertical and horizontal views. They will go on sale from November.
Facebook struck partnerships with companies to bolster the abilities of its Portal devices. That's why the company has got some privacy in mind, with a button letting you disable the camera and microphone in one single click.
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The Portal also sports Bluetooth, so it can play music when paired to a nearby device, but critically, like the Echo Show, it lacks official support for YouTube and other major streaming services such as Netflix. All video calls over Portals are encrypted.
Facebook has also said that it's incorporating AR effects into the new video calling devices, with "Story Time" created to bring bedtime stories to life with colorful visuals and custom sound effects. Facebook is marketing the device Portal, as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to fuss with positioning and other controls. The Portal also doesn't record any of the chats you have on it, online or offline, making it safer, on paper, than the Echo.
On Monday, Facebook unveiled the $200 (U.S.) Portal, the first-ever consumer hardware from the world's largest social network.
"And so not one week ago nor six months ago, but two years ago we started on a privacy-first plan for this product". There's also a physical camera cover to prevent recording. Additionally, you can also receive $100 off any two devices, meaning a bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298. Portal costs $199 and Portal+ is $349. 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".
Like its competitors, the Portal works with a handful of steaming media services such as Spotify, Pandora, Food Network and, of course, Facebook Watch. Even as these two tech giants team up, though, Facebook has asserted ownership over the device by offering its own voice controls, as well. You can use the Portal hands-free by using the command "Hey Portal", and it also has Amazon's Alexa built-in so you can access all of its great features as well.
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