Facebook Announces Portal Privacy-Centered Smart Displays Including Massive 15.6-inch Portal+
The Portal, which will retail for $199, has a 10.1-inch display (1280x800) with an integrated speaker in its base. The Portal+, however, has a ginormous 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080 and will retail for $349. Whereas the Portal has a fixed display in a landscape orientation, the Portal+ has a display that can rotate between landscape and portrait modes.
Both devices feature a four-microphone array and a built-in webcam so that you can video chat with friends and family using Facebook Messenger. For those that aren't too keen on the camera "spying" on you 24-7, you can either disable it via software with a single tap, or you can use the included privacy cover to physically block the camera.
Facebook is using what its calls Smart Camera technology, which allows the camera to pan and zoom so that it can keep you in the center of the frame as you chat with others. As you move around a room, the camera will track you keep you in focus. If there are two people in the frame, it will focus on both; if one person leaves, it will zoom in on the remaining person. Although Smart Camera uses AI technology, Facebook is stating that it doesn't incorporate facial recognition so it cannot identify who you are. In addition, Facebook says that it will not listen in on your video calls, and that all communications are private.
When making video calls, you can simply say "Hey Portal", and it can connect you with one of your contacts via Messenger. "Hey Portal" is a voice assistant that is powered by Amazon's Alexa (although it's not clear at this point if the entire library of Alexa Skills will be available). Only voice data is sent to Facebook servers, but you can easily delete this information as it is accumulated. You can either do Portal-to-Portal video chats or Portal to any other platform that supports Messenger video chats (i.e. desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
All of this seems nice, but are people willing to purchase a Facebook-branded hardware die that will take up residence inside their home? The company already came under the microscope earlier this year over the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, and just two weeks ago, it revealed that another 50 million accounts were compromised. For a company that seems to have such a problem with user privacy, it may be asking a lot for its users to plunk down $200 or more on a hardware device that (at face value) seems much more limited than competing offerings from Amazon and Google. And we can't forget that the Google Home Hub is likely to be announced tomorrow, which could further give the Portal and Portal+ trouble in the marketplace.
The Portal and Portal+ will be available in November, and is available for preorder right now.