Facebook Announces Portal TV Video Chat Camera For Your Living Room, If You Dare

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Do you remember the Facebook Phone, aka the HTC First? That device crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. What about the Facebook Portal? That smart display family launched last year in sizes up to 15.6-inches, but it hasn't exactly won over the consumer market like competing entries from Amazon (Echo Show) and Google (Nest Home Hub Max). Facebook is now trying again to prod consumers into buying its first-party hardware, which brings us to the Portal TV and some other new Portal hardware.

The Portal TV looks somewhat like a reincarnation of the unloved Microsoft Kinect camera for the original Xbox One. The device plugs into a free HDMI port on your television and allows you to partake in wide-angle video chats (120-degree field of view) with friends and family. Once the device is hooked up to your TV, you'll need to sign in with your Facebook account, after which you'll be able to make calls using either WhatsApp or Messenger (both Facebook properties).

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Facebook Portal TV

The Portal TV uses an AI-powered zoom feature for the camera, which can follow you around as you move about your living space so that you are still easily seen and heard by the person on the other end of the call.  And for those that are concerned about privacy -- as you should be when it comes to Facebook -- there is a physical sliding shutter for covering the camera when not in use. For those wondering, the 8-field microphone array can be disabled as well.

But the fancy camera isn't the only trick up the Portal TV's sleeve; it also serves as a media streamer, giving you access to popular services like Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Showtime and Starz.

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The company has also announced a new Portal and a Portal Mini, both of which are designed to look like picture frames and can be placed in various rooms in your home. The two devices share the same features, with the former featuring a 10-inch display, while the latter has an 8-inch display. The devices can be used in either landscape or portrait orientation and feature some pretty potent speakers for video calls or when playing back music.

All three devices respond to "Hey Portal" to carry out commands and include support for Amazon Alexa. Given Facebook's frequent run-ins with the privacy police, the company is being very transparent about its efforts to safeguard your privacy and security. "For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers," the company writes.

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“If you have “Hey Portal” enabled, Portal listens for the phrase 'Hey Portal.' If it’s detected, Portal sends a short audio recording and transcript of the 'Hey Portal' voice interaction to Facebook. A trained team may review a sample to make our voice services smarter and more accurate for everyone."

Facebook gives you the ability to view and delete voice recordings or turn them off altogether if you wish.

The Portal TV, Portal and Portal Mini are currently available for $149, $179 and $129 respectively. However, Facebook is currently running a promotion that knocks $50 off the price if you buy any two devices.