Facebook wants to put a camera in your living room

09 October, 2018, 11:11 | Author: Larry Hoffman
  • Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

But Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer. Facebook is promoting the Portal devices as a way to communicate, focusing on video calling - the device's camera will automatically zoom into the main subject in the camera when you are in a video call thanks to the Smart Camera feature, for example. This means the ability to do voice or video calls over Facebook Messenger and Facebook Watch integration. And Pandora, iHeart Radio and other streaming services can be played through the built-in speakers.

Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers, with it only sending voice commands to the servers after hearing, "Hey Portal". It has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera with 140-degree field of view.

While Portal will be seen by many as a direct competitor to other smart assistant devices, particularly Amazon's screen-equipped Echo Show, Facebook is pitching the device as mainly a way to stay connected with friends and family.

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Both Portals come with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.

Facebook is finally getting in the consumer hardware-making game, putting not one but two Portal devices up for pre-order after reportedly pausing development for a few months to restore customer confidence. Both come in white or black. The company is still dealing with the fallout of Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a British firm harvested Facebook user data to aid the Trump U.S. presidential campaign.

The company worked with a U.S. film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team.

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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. Thanks to Alexa from Amazon, you can initiate video calls simply by using your voice, plus a suite of AI tech makes your experience more rich. The smaller of the two options, the Portal, offers a 10-inch display, while the Portal+ jumps up to a 15-inch display that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

Portal represents Facebook's first serious foray into selling consumer hardware outside of its virtual reality brand Oculus, which it acquired for $2 billion in 2014. The Portal comes with a manual camera cover that covers the lens, physically blocking it from broadcasting video when you don't want to, and additionally has a button that turns off the mic and camera, physically cutting the circuit, so it can't be compromised by hackers who want to tap into your video feed.

Amazon's Echo Show can make video Drop-In calls as well as video calls through the Alexa app. Amazon will be adding support for Skype video chatting in the future, too. More recently, Facebook revealed that hackers managed to pierce its security to break into 50 million accounts.

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Understanding that it doesn't have the best reputation in the industry when it comes to privacy, Facebook has baked in a bunch of features to help keep this device more secure. The two devices are priced at $199 and $349 respectively and are available from Facebook, Amazon, and Best Buy.

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