20 November 2018
Facebook’s smart speakers are finally official after going through a series of leaks. The social networking service giant has launched two smart speakers – Portal and Portal+ and these have been designed to ease video calls. With these smart speakers, Facebook has entered the hardware market successfully but it may experience some serious competition from the existing champions in this area. Facebook has undergone several privacy mishaps and the very recent Cambridge Analytica data breach is still so fresh for us to forget.
Moving on, let’s know about these new devices. The signature feature of these smart speakers is a wide-angle camera that automatically keeps users in focus no matter if they are moving inside a room. The Facebook Portal smart speaker comes with a 10-inch display with 1280x800 pixels resolution. Also, the display of the Portal+ is a bit larger with a 15-inch screen size and 1920x1080 pixels resolution. So, you can enjoy video calls on a larger display and a more immersive experience.
The Portal and Portal+ don’t have their own virtual assistant as the company chose to rely on the existing Amazon Alexa. So, you could think of the same Alexa commands that work on Echo devices, but Facebook points out “Alexa features and functionality may differ slightly on Portal and Amazon devices.” This means certain voice commands and skills available on Echo smart speakers won’t work here.
To access Facebook smart speakers, a user would say “Hey Portal,” this will let the users initiate Facebook Messenger video calls. Both the devices feature voice-enhancing 4-mic arrays with a 360-degree pickup, but the smaller Portal is more modest in terms of sound quality.
They both come with “Smart Camera” technology watches and hears anything going on around the room during a call or something. This does sound uncanny but Facebook has everything to convince you as it maintains a dedicated privacy section on the Portal website.
According to Facebook, the Portal never listen to, view or store the contents of your video calls, keeping them secure at all times with a strong encryption.
The price of the Portal is $199 and the price of Portal+ is $349. They are available now for pre-order in the US – from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy – and will begin shipping in November. Facebook has also bundled an enticing offer under which you can take a bundle of any two devices home at $298. There’s also a physical camera cover provided with each Portal and Portal+.