MENLO PARK – Social media giant Facebook has announced two new AI-powered devices – Portal and Portal+ – that let users do voice or video calls to other Facebook and Messenger users.
The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, with a giant display size of 10.1-inch and resolution of 1280×800 pixels and 10W dual speakers.
The Portal uses an array of four far-field microphones that records user’s conversations and picks up voice commands and a 12MP wide-angle for video calls.
The Portal+ has a 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels that can be oriented vertically or horizontally. It has the same camera and microphone arrangement as the smaller Portal but better sound with two tweeters and one woofer arrangement totaling 20W.
The Portal is primarily a device for making video calls on Facebook and Messenger. it also uses AI to power the device’s Smart Camera and Smart Sound abilities.
The camera is designed to crop users into the frame and can detect when there are multiple people in the room and frame accordingly.
Portal also supports music and video services, such as Facebook Watch, Food Network, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Newsy and more are said to be on the way. It will also show photos and videos from the user’s Facebook library.
Portal also has Alexa built-in, so you can use it just like an Echo, including controlling your compatible smart home accessories with it.
In terms of privacy, Facebook claims the calls are encrypted and that Facebook does not listen in or save a copy of them.
Facebook also allows users to disable the camera and microphone, which supposedly physically disconnects them with camera cover.
Currently, the devices are available for pre-order in the US at $199 for Portal, and $349 for Portal plus.