FB launches auto-zooming video chat screens as its 1st hardware


Facebook has launched its first hardware product in the form of a countertop video chat screen called Portal that automatically zooms in and out to always keep users in the frame.


Priced at $199 for a 10-inch Portal and $349 for 15.6-inch Portal+, the devices are enabled with "Hey Portal" voice navigation and come with voice-activated music and Facebook messenger.

There is no facial recognition and instead just a technology called 2D pose that runs locally on the device to track your position. Therefore, the camera can follow you if you move around.

“The new video communication speakers with tablet-size screens for the home can dramatically change the way people keep in touch and their built-in AI technology makes video calling easier and more like hanging out,” said Facebook.

A separate chip for local detection only activates Portal when it hears its wake word, it does not save recordings and the data connection is encrypted. You can electronically disable the camera and mic with a tap or slide the plastic privacy shield over the lens to blind it while keeping voice controls active.

Two speakers are powered by AI as well as smart camera and sound technology that let users have a better, more convenience and hands-free experience. The speaker’s Smart Camera can sense the movement and action, and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

The Portal, which is equipped with a 10-inch 1280×800 display, can let user’s video chat with their families and friends over Facebook Messenger, while the Portal + have a 15-inch 1920×1080 pivoting display.

The $199 Portal comes in $20 cheaper than the less functional Amazon Echo show and will have to compete with Lenovo and Google’s upcoming version that might have the benefit of YouTube. 

Portal and the $349 Portal+ started sale today in the US on Portal.Facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy in both black and white base colours. In November, they will also appear in physical Amazon Books and Best Buy stores.

Image credit: Inshorts

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