Facebook unveils voice-controlled camera which watches you in your living room

Facebook unveils voice-controlled camera which watches you in your living room

Facebook's new Portal and Portal+ smart displays. The Portal features a 10.1-inch display along with 10W speakers.

Called Portal, the tablet-like device with a 10-inch screen allows users to make video calls with their voice over Facebook's Messenger app.

Both devices include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, and are available for pre-order from Facebook's Portal website.

The Portal comes in two variants.

Unlike the Echo Show and Lenovo Smart Displays, which are more general-purpose devices, the Portal is centered around video chats through Facebook Messenger.

The cameras and microphones on Facebook's Portal smart home devices automatically track the subject as they move around and minimise background noise when applicable. You can bring Portal home for $199 Dollars and Portal+ for $349 USD.

Now, Facebook is trying to get consumers to trust the company with a device that contains its own hardware, microphone and camera in the middle of their homes, so it's no wonder Facebook is stressing the privacy features, such as ways to disable the mic and cover the camera. 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".

The Portal's video chats are encrypted and not recorded, Facebook says, so the company can't hear or see what you're talking about or who is in the room.

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The speaker comes integrated with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant technology, which provides an always-listening service for initiating these calls amid other functions like setting reminders and ordering groceries. Portal will also run Facebook Watch shows, which are the programs from premium publishers that run on the social network. Those Instagram and Snapchat face filters will also come to the big screen here via Facebook's Spark AR platform, so you can chat with people while sporting a cartoon face, if you prefer. The Portal+, on the other hand, has a 15-inch Full HD display that actually pivots, just in case you want to do stuff in portrait mode.

Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. Lastly, Portal only sends those voice commands to Facebook servers which are said after the "Hey Portal" keyword. You can delete your Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

To start the call, all it takes is: "Hey Portal".

On the surface, these may look like some of the other smart displays on the market, like Lenovo's Smart Display or Amazon's Echo Show, it's what's inside that makes it different.

Scrutiny this year over Facebook's privacy and content moderation practices have led some people to abandon the service and the company to warn of thinning profits. Both the devices will use a 12-megapixel camera to enable video calls.

There are only a handful of third-party partners, so far, including Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Newsy, Food Network and Amazon Alexa.

Portal's camera, which uses a form of artificial intelligence to recognize body shapes, is a major marketing point, offering users the convenience of staying in the frame without having to adjust the device.

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