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Facebook Unveils Smart Speaker for Messenger video calls with Alexa

11 October, 2018, 23:34 | Author: Rafael Roberts
  • Facebook Introduces AR Enhanced Video Calling Devices

Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but wireless speakers and video calls are a growing market.

Smart Sound minimises background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move. Facebook has also developed a new artificial intelligence software called Smart Camera, which will work by sensing people's movements and automatically pan, zoom, and frame the picture without requiring any intervention. However, it will not be possible to record.

Since Facebook uses Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to power Portal, it will be hard to catch up to Amazon's smart-home saturation. With Portal an Portal +, you can check your favorite recipes from the Food Network, add effects to your videos (Facebook's Spark Augmented Reality), and when video calling is not active, it can be used like a smart box where you can display photos and videos. Users can start a video call simply by saying "Hey Portal" and noting who they'd like to call.

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

Portal marks Facebook's foray into the smart speakers segment, taking on other tech giants like Amazon, Google and Apple.

Both devices arrive in November, but you can pre-order them starting today for $199 and $349 via portal.facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy. Facebook says it will also encrypt all video calls, and store all of its AI learning locally on the individual device, not on Facebook's servers.

The Portal and Portal+ go for, United States dollars 199 and 349, respectively. Facebook Live, the company's tool for broadcasting videos live, is not even an option on the Portal.


Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team, said, "We set out to try and make video calling so good that it feels like you're sharing the same physical space as someone else." . The portal launch came after barely two weeks Facebook found the bug that enabled a compromise of millions of account, raising more questions if the device is actually hack-free.

Facebook expects to stand apart on the market because of Portal's touchscreen and the 400 million people who call through its Messenger service each month worldwide.

Facebook is billing the device as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to focus on camera positioning and other controls.

"We've seen a rise of video calling, on both Messenger and WhatsApp - it has been a tremendous trend", he said.

Bad Time For Facebook Portal?

Portal will give users multiple ways to lock and turn off the various aspects of the device. Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio tunes can all be streamed via voice commands, with Amazon's Alexa handling any shouted instructions, musical or otherwise (despite Portal competing with Amazon's Echo range and Amazon's music services not being integrated at launch).

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