Facebook’s Newest Gadget After Data Breaches Takes Video Inside the Home

Facebook could put a camera in your home with video calling Portal device

The move also marks Facebook's first foray into the hardware space outwith Oculus - the VR headset company it snapped up in 2014.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, which is basically a giant display with a speaker.

Indeed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg this spring reportedly pushed back the Portal's launch date by almost half a year after the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal blew up. As a camera, it offers a nice upgrade to the Skype or FaceTime video-chat experience that many of us have on a phone or computer. But for now, voice controls are limited to simple commands like placing calls and opening apps.

Your friends don't need to own a Portal to receive your calls; as long as they have Facebook Messenger on their smartphone or tablet, you're good to go, with up to seven different people on one call. The new Facebook product comes in two versions, the Portal and the Portal+ and focuses mainly on Messenger video chats.

While the contents of Portal video calls are encrypted, Facebook does collect call logs from the device. 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. Both the devices will use a 12-megapixel camera to enable video calls. Both devices have a four-mic array that's created to pick up your voice no matter where you are in the room. You can use the AR effects with a feature called Story Time to "bring stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals".

The Portal also has a few other tricks.

The Portal also takes advantage of the best part about Facebook: photos. Meanwhile, the larger Portal+ boasts a 15.6-inch Full HD display, and it's coupled with 20W speakers and a four-inch bass woofer.

The Portal isn't a fully functional computer. Echo Shows can access all of Alexa's Skills and play Prime Video shows and movies, while devices like Lenovo's Smart Display for the Google Assistant can play videos from YouTube and provide video answers to queries thanks to its integration with Google search.

But the elephant in the room is privacy.

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It's not year clear when Facebook will be launching the devices in markets outside the USA, or how much they'll cost, but we've reached out to Facebook and we'll update this story as soon as we know more.

Facebook is promising its listening and video-capturing device for homes called Portal will safeguard consumer privacy, and that there won't be any ads on it - for now. Or at least that's what Facebook says.

When you're not using Portal, you can block its camera using the built-in cover.

The AI functions discussed earlier run locally on Portal, not remotely on Facebook servers. Both devices also feature a button that turns their cameras physically off.

Facebook is hardly alone in pushing the boundaries of privacy in our homes.

Facebook wants to be invited into your living room. Cameras are Silicon Valley's next frontier, and it's trying to persuade us to install them as video-chat devices and security systems.

Not too long ago the Cambridge Analytica scandal popped up, as you well remember I'm sure.

Facebook execs say that's not their intent. "Hopefully our values shine through". And how many people are going to make jokes about Facebook opening a portal to... somewhere? We'll see if people accept the friend request.

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