During calls, it can also play music on Spotify as well as tell children stories via augmented effects app Story Time.
The space normally dominated by Amazon and Google has a new competitor in its courtyard with Facebook announcing the launch of its own smart speakers. There are two versions, different screen size: Portal ($199) with a horizontal display with a diagonal of 10.1 inches with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and Portal+ with a swivel screen 15.6 inch Full HD ($349). Portal's display is fixed in landscape mode, but Portal+'s screen can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.
For privacy and security, the Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers.
When not up and busy with video calls, Portal will scroll through Facebook photos. Simultaneously the audio system filters out background noise and enhances voice. Facebook Portal is a smart home speaker that is activated through voice commands and it uses Amazon's Alexa as an AI assistant.
"This is going to gain [Facebook] not only a place in the smart home, but also data they may not have been able to collect before or understand before", ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins said. The tag line says it all: "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there".
The company states that it won't allow Facebook to listen, view or even keep track of the contents of video calls over Portal. "We've seen a rise of video calling, on both Messenger and WhatsApp - it has been a tremendous trend." . If you want to zoom in on just one single person tap on the screen and select "Spotlight Mode", which locks Portal's camera onto one face and body and keep that particular person centred in the frame no matter who else comes and goes. The history of voice commands can be duly accessed, and even deleted upon the user's discretion and the information won't be stored on Facebook' servers too. While voice-enabled smart displays like the Portal are in a budding product category, ownership of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home will rise to 48% of US consumers after this holiday season from 32% in August, Adobe Analytics forecast.
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.
JD.com, which had the biggest share of China's domestic smart speaker market in 2017, also has a smart display called Dingdong Play. There were almost 1 billion video calls made on Messenger in 2017, and it was double the number than the calls made in 2016. Portals also support a four- to 12-digit passcode; to change that code, you'll need to enter your Facebook password.