As previously rumoured, Facebook has announced their first designed and built hardware devices with the Portal and Portal+ video conferencing devices.
The devices are up for pre-sale in the US through Facebook at portal.facebook.com, and US retailers Amazon and Best Buy with shipping expected to begin in November.
The Portal devices utilise Facebook Messenger, allowing you to talk to anyone on your Messenger contact list even if they’re on a phone or tablet. You’ll be able to access Augmented Reality effects on your video calls, just like on Messenger.
Portal devices are Alexa enabled as well, allowing you to access your smart home devices and use Alexa Skills. Tech Crunch is reporting that Facebook is also planning to bring Google Assistant support to the platform soon as well.
The Portal comes in two models, a 10-inch model with a 1280 x 800 resolution display, and a ‘Portal+’ which has a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution pivoting display that can follow you around the room – it actually looks rather neat.
It’s not just video conferencing with Facebook also partnering with music streaming services Spotify Premium, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, and integrating their Facebook Watch video platform, and content from Food Network and Newsy.
The big call here after Facebook’s privacy issues this year is if you actually trust Facebook enough to have one in your home. They’ve taken pains to address the privacy concerns ahead of the curve.
According to Facebook you can either disable the camera and microphone with a single touch, or disable the camera with a built-in cover, while still allowing you to take incoming calls and notifications and use voice commands. There’s also an option to lock the screen with a 4-12 digit pass code.
Facebook has also advised further privacy protections for Portal including:
- Facebook doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling. In addition, video calls on Portal are encrypted, so your calls are always secure.
- For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are.
- Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, “Hey Portal.” You can delete your Portal’s voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.
The smaller Portal is priced at $$199 (or around $0 AUD) while the larger Portal+ is priced at $$349 (or around $0 AUD). There’s bundling deals available for purchasing two or more devices, with up to $100 (or around $145.35 AUD) off making for a decent option to give one to a family member.
We’ve reached out to Facebook to find out about international availability and will update with any new information.