Facebook Launches Portal Smart Display

Nichole VegaOct 09, 2018

Anticipating the privacy concerns, Facebook said Monday it is equipping the Portals with a cover to block the camera lens when users want privacy. They offer Facebook and Messenger on their touchscreens to connect loved ones and friends over the internet - displaying live video or profile pages simply and hands-free. The Portal does have a few apps, including Facebook Watch for video, and Spotify and Pandora for music. Facebook is pitching it as a device that will make Messenger video calls easier and "more like hanging out".

Both Portals come with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. Most of the Portal's chatting features are opt-in, which means the user is shipped a device that gives them the power and onus to choose what features are enabled and disabled. Both come in white or black.

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit that the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016. It has the same camera and microphone arrangement as the smaller Portal but better sound with two tweeter and one woofer arrangement totaling 20W.

Facebook says it won't "listen to, view or keep the contents " of video calls, adding that the Portal camera won't use facial recognition or identify people in the video calls. Facebook also promises it will not use Portal data to target users with adverts on its site, and says the device itself will not include any adverts - at launch, at least.

The Portal has a 10-inch 1280 x 800 pixel display and looks quite similar to the Amazon Echo Show in form factor, while its bigger sibling has a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel display that can pivot on its base. Because there's no way Facebook wouldn't hook any of its products through the main features of the social network.

Your friends don't need to own a Portal to receive your calls; as long as they have Facebook Messenger on their smartphone or tablet, you're good to go, with up to seven different people on one call.

It remains to be seen if Portal can be a commercial success, because Facebook has had trouble with hardware for years.

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.

The Portal also has a button on the top that cuts off its microphone and camera.

We've reached out to Facebook to find out about global availability and will update with any new information.

As previously rumored, the Portal family will have two versions: The more affordable Portal model priced at $199, and the high-end Portal+ that will cost $399. Smart Camera helps you read a fun story via a simple teleprompter, perfectly framed, while your loved ones on the other side watch as your face and voice transform into the story's characters. While some might find that creepy, Facebook says the goal is to show people they don't have to be stuck in front of the screen to communicate.

Facebook's previous hardware, including its Oculus virtual reality headset and a phone developed with HTC, gained little adoption.

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