Facebook's advantage over other video-chat services: Chances are, nearly everyone you might want to call already has an account. Powered by Facebook Messenger, Portal can be used to conduct video chats with other Portal users, or those using Messenger on mobile devices or desktops.
Although, when Portal and Portal+ are in use the cameras will indeed follow users. You can wander around the room, do chores, Jazzercise, play with the kids or whatever. And the company is clearly aware of that - so the device is created to respect your privacy, at least according to Facebook.
The Portal also has a few other tricks.
Portal's Smart Camera works in tandem with "Smart Sound", which minimizes background noise and hones in on the person speaking for a clearer video call experience.
Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but it is clear that wireless speakers and video calls represent a growing market.
Facebook has just introduced a pair of new communication devices that are aimed at bringing you closer to your friends and family. It features a pivoting 15-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
The Portal isn't a fully functional computer. All of this is pretty basic for a smart display, and devices like Amazon's Echo Show have been offering similar features for ages. It is controlled using voice commands, although Facebook has eschewed the personal approach of competitors such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa in favour of a more disembodied presence: users initiate instructions with: "Hey Portal".
In terms of privacy, Facebook claims the calls are encrypted and that Facebook does not listen in or save a copy of them.
"It´s been a big shift for the company", Facebook´s vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth told AFP before the launch of "Portal". "Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are", it adds. These new widescreen displays are created to help you feel as though the two of you are in the same room. Facebook promises you can delete Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity log. The device will allow users to disable the camera and microphone with a single tap and to lock it with a numerical passcode. You can't browse Facebook or Instagram on it, or even visit the web (you also can't watch video content on it via Youtube).
Facebook has since reasserted itself as a guarantor of privacy.
Still, Amazon has shipped 1 million of its Echo speakers with displays over the last year, according to research firm Canalys, which expects 4 million such devices across brands to ship globally next year. Cameras are Silicon Valley's next frontier, and it's trying to persuade us to install them as video-chat devices and security systems.
Portal cares about your privacy.
The move also marks Facebook's first foray into the hardware space outwith Oculus - the VR headset company it snapped up in 2014. "Hopefully our values shine through".
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