Shira Ovide: It's the wrong time for Facebook's new device

Joshua Bennett
October 13, 2018

But Chinese companies have been building smart displays for a while, with Baidu and leading the way - despite the fact that Chinese consumers have shown little appetite for smart speakers yet, according to the China Internet Report 2018. The company stressed user privacy in the announcement, touting a smart camera that does not work with Facebook's services and promising that the company does not listen to, view or keep video calls.

"You can call Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they don't have Portal".

Portal was designed as a screen and camera gadget to make video calling more intuitive and immersive by using Artificial Intelligence and motion sensors to detect movement during video calls. That said, Portal does come with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa built in and runs on a open-source version of Google's Android operating system, similar to several Amazon devices.

Facebook Portal has a screen diagonal of 10.1 inches and Portal + has a screen diagonal of 15.6 inch.

The device, which will be available for pre-order in the United States, allows users to make video calls at home without having to stand immediately in front of the screen or hold a phone at arm's length.

Google made a point of noting that Home Hub, unlike the Echo Show and Facebook Portal, will not have a camera. So, it can connect calls to people who are not using "Portal".

Portal speakers are meant to aid in video calls though skeptics are concerned this might prove to be another avenue for hackers.

Zuckerberg emphasized privacy in a Monday post on his Facebook wall, saying that privacy "is built deeply" into the device.

"Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, "hey Portal".

Privacy as usual, is always the biggest issue when it comes to Facebook and its services/products, but the company says certain things were taking into considering while building Portal.

While Facebook Portal might seem like the best smart speaker available on the market, no one can blame people for not wanting it in their homes. Is marrying a smart speaker with a video capability you already possess with your laptop, desktop or tablet/phone really that useful? The microphone and camera can be fully disabled with just one tap, and each device comes with a camera cover for added security.

But not everybody thinks it's a good idea after Facebook admitted a security breach exposed personal information of 50 million users.

The Portal and the Portal+ sport a wide-lens camera that can follow users as they move around a room to keep them in view during a video call. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you're calling. "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there", explains company in a press statement.

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