Facebook announce Portal Video Calling Device

See Facebook's first hardware product

See Facebook's first hardware product

Still reeling from a security breach that affected up to 90 million users, Facebook has announced two new pieces of hardware created to make video chat easier and more immersive than ever.

The main difference between the Facebook Portal+ and standard Portal is size, as the latter sports a fairly easy to maneuver 10.1-inch display, while the Plus version bumps that up to a gargantuan, portrait to landscape-rotating 15.6 inches.

Facebook is mostly marketing Portal devices as communication tools to talk with family and friends by video. You can start a video call simply by saying "Hey Portal" and noting who you'd like to call. Users activate the device by using the wake word "Portal" to make calls.

However, to address potential security concerns about Portal (aside from the general rising distrust of Facebook), Facebook says the Portal's microphones and camera feature an option that will "physically" disconnect those components, and the company has installed an indicator light that glows red so you know they're off. If you want to try and get oen for yourself anyway, with some importing methods, they'll cost $199 (£152) and $349 (£268) respectively.

The Portal uses an array of four far-field microphones that records your conversations picks up your voice commands and a 12MP wide-angle camera that watches you sleep lets you make video calls. On top of that, a screen passcode lets you prevent unauthorized use. Its primary goal is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too. The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display which has a focus on video chats. Portal will also run Facebook Watch shows, which are the programs from premium publishers that run on the social network. When you are not video chatting, the display will scroll through your Facebook photos as well as photos you have been tagged in.

The display is available in two sizes; the standard Portal looks a lot like the Echo Show, whereas the Portal Plus is much larger. Portal's camera also doesn't use facial recognition, and you can delete your Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

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The move also marks Facebook's first foray into the hardware space outwith Oculus - the VR headset company it snapped up in 2014. All video calls over Portals are encrypted. For example, Facebook includes Smart Camera that automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in the shot.

With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls.

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British firm working for Donald Trump in 2016. 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.

The social networking giant is also making it clear that it "doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls".

Facebook has just entered the smart speaker business and it's already partnered with three music services: Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio.

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