Portal: New home device from Facebook

Facebook Introduces AR Enhanced Video Calling Devices

Portal and Portal+ are created to make video calling easier and more like hanging out, while the widescreen display lets people share every moment together.

The company worked with a U.S. film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team.

With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 resolution display, Portal from Facebook improves video calling and lets you enjoy quality time with family and friends - hands and distraction free.

The Portal+ has a 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels that can be oriented vertically or horizontally. The idea behind the new device is to make the video chats more like actually hanging out together. Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, "Hey Portal".

Both of the Portals are created to be used from a distance of between 5ft to 10ft (1.5m to 3m) - further than video calls are typically made from using smartphones and other computers. The Portal's compatibility with Amazon Alexa expands its functionality with tens of thousands of voice-powered apps, or "Alexa skills", that are another avenue for reaching audiences or providing customer service.

Much of the coverage around the launch of Facebook's Portal devices likens them to the smart speakers that other companies have launched.

"We know that privacy and security are important when you bring new technology into your home".

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And it comes bundled with Amazon's voice interface Alexa, enabling users to shop or control household appliances. If you want to zoom in on just one single person tap on the screen and select "Spotlight Mode", which locks Portal's camera onto one face and body and keep that particular person centred in the frame no matter who else comes and goes. Both devices also have a camera cover for when they're not in use, which won't block incoming calls or notifications.

"Facebook is pricing these Portals at a level that should certainly appeal to a large number of households and individuals", said Jonathan Collins, from the consultancy ABI.

"Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls", says the social network. You can get $100 off any two devices.

This AI-controlled device simplifies video-chats with an exemplary wide-angle camera which can identify the user, pans the body and can then keep tracking you wherever you move around.

The Portal uses an array of four far-field microphones that records user's conversations and picks up voice commands and a 12MP wide-angle for video calls. It also has the ability to delete your voice history in Facebook's Activity Log.

Portal and Portal+ are now available for pre-order for $199 and $349 respectively, with shipping scheduled for November. These gadgets have become the first to be released under the company's brand.

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