Facebook announces first hardware device – a video calling screen

The Portal and Portal+ will go on sale in the US in November.

Press Association
Last updated: 8 October 2018 - 5.49pm

Facebook has unveiled the company’s first ever hardware product – a video calling device called Portal.

The new voice-controlled screen, which has the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built-in, can be used to make video calls to friends and family via the social media giant’s Messenger platform.

Portal from Facebook

Posted by Facebook on Friday, October 5, 2018

In an attempt to reassure users over the firm’s record around user privacy, Facebook said the device comes with a camera lens cover and the ability to disable both the camera and the microphone with a single tap.

The company has been at the centre of several data privacy incidents this year, and also revealed details about the Portal’s privacy settings in a bid to reassure potential customers.

“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,” the company said in the blog post announcing the device.

Last month the company confirmed it had been the subject of a data breach affecting up to 50 million users, which is now being investigated by the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC), the lead supervising authority for Facebook in the EU.

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

First going on sale in the US in November, Portal will come with a 10in display for video calls, or a 15in display on the Portal+.

The device includes what Facebook calls Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology, which uses artificial intelligence to automatically pan and zoom the camera to keep everyone speaking in view, while Smart Sound minimises background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is speaking to improve call quality.

The social media giant has been the subject of several previous rumours linked to building hardware – including suggestions the company once considered building a smartphone.

The company has also been heavily linked with making its own smart speaker to rival the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but no such device has yet appeared.

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