Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

Angelica Greene
October 9, 2018

Facebook's new Portal and Portal+ smart displays.

Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. We know, that sounds a little spooky, but Facebook has an extensive dedicated privacy section on the Portal website detailing everything that might give you pause.

Portal is also linked with Facebook, and is able to provide birthday reminders, notify you when close friends are available to connect, and display your photos and videos. The smaller one looks like a complete rival of the Echo Show, featuring a similar design with a 10-inch screen in the middle, a camera at the top, and a speaker unit at the base. The larger Portal+ has an HD 15.6-inch screen that can swivel between vertical and horizontal views.

Again, Portal and Portal+ are up for pre-order in the U.S. on Facebook, as well as Amazon and Best Buy. The devices will start shipping in November.

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. However, preorders will be limited to U.S. buyers initially - Amazon and Best Buy will also stock them. For those concerned about privacy, both Portals have a button that mutes their mics, as well as a physical cover for the camera.

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"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". The company also incorporated its Spark AR platform into each device so users can video chat with custom sound and visual effects (a Snapchat-esque feature dubbed Story Time).

Facebook is hoping Portal and Portal Plus will be on people's holiday gift-giving lists.

And Facebook seems to be putting privacy front and center for the Portal series, offering users additional features to protect their data. In Facebook's favour, beyond the price difference, is the fact that the company can hook Portal's videoconferencing features into Facebook and Messenger, two services that cover a substantial chunk of the human race between them. I couldn't shake the feeling that Facebook eventually wanted to run its facial-recognition tech on my chats, or peer into my living room to see what products I buy in order to target future ads.

The Portal and Portal+ go up for pre-orders starting today, with the former priced at $199 and the latter at $349. 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. There's also no way to record video from the camera. Lastly, Portal only sends those voice commands to Facebook servers which are said after the "Hey Portal" keyword. If you buy two devices - either two Portals, two Portal Pluses, or one of each - you can save $100 on your purchase via Facebook. The AI used for the Smart Camera and Smart Sound features are also all happening locally, so you don't need to worry about your video calls being stored on Facebook servers.

Like its competitors, the Portal works with a handful of steaming media services such as Spotify, Pandora, Food Network and, of course, Facebook Watch.

Other reports by GizPress

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