Facebook Launches AI-Powered Video Calling Devices

Angelica Greene
October 12, 2018

With such an immersive and personal tool, it's essential that user privacy and security is taken carefully into account, and Facebook is working on regaining our trust.

Facebook has recently been working with a fragile reputation and a shrinking user base among young people.

With Facebook Messenger installed on Portal, which allows users to place calls via the Messenger, Facebook Portal clearly has more advantage over Google and Amazon's smart home devices. Smart Sound minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking, no matter where they move. That said, Portal does come with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa built in and runs on a open-source version of Google's Android operating system, similar to several Amazon devices.

The product can be used to call anyone on Facebook Messenger, allowing users to connect with family and friends, even those who don't have Portal.

Portal has a 10-inch, 1280 by 800 pixel display, while Portal+ has a 15-inch, 1920 by 1080 pixel pivoting display.

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. The firm estimated that device makers shipped almost 12 million smart speakers in Q2 2018, about 8 million more than a year ago.

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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.

Amazon's Echo and Google's Home smart speakers have been surprise hits. It will also show photos and videos from the user's Facebook library. Their Smart Camera is set to follow the movements and keep everyone in the frame: as more people enter into the room, the SC will automatically widen to keep everyone in view, but giving you the option to focus in one person (Spotlight mode). With such a device at home, some users may worry that their conversations at home may be recorded and passed on to third parties without their consent.

However, Facebook is aware of this long-drawn perception and has been clear at addressing these concerns beforehand.

"With all the breaches, I wouldn't think anyone would just believe (the privacy claims)", Cavoukian said. The camera has a physical cover and there's a built-in hardware button to turn off the camera and microphone. After all, Facebook isn't known for keeping secrets that well. "All the calls are always completely private".

Facebook is grappling for a comeback from its falling shares but fresh privacy issues keep surfacing since after Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook says, both models are designed for making video chats feel less like a call, and more like you're actually in the same room. As with most news around voice, marketers see opportunity - even if they don't quite know what that is yet.

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