Facebook is trying its luck at hardware with Portal, the long-rumored video chat device that the company was working on. There are actually two models – Portal and Portal+. They are essentially smart displays that are primarily focused on providing a better video calling experience.
The Portal and Portal+ feature a 10 inch 1280×800 and 15 inch 1920×1080 respectively, the plus model has a pivoting display. Facebook says that both products will make video chats feel less like a call and “more like you’re actually in the same room.”
These devices can be used to call anyone with a Portal or anyone using Facebook or Messenger. Since they are smart displays as well, they are also capable of streaming music from Pandora and Spotify. Video can be streamed from Facebook Watch as well. It comes with Amazon Alexa built-in. The device doesn’t allow you to browse Facebook, though.
The wide-angle camera on the Portal is capable of identifying the user’s body and then track them as they move around the room. It makes video calls easier instead of having to hold a phone up to your phone for long periods of time. Portal takes the fuss out of getting everyone in the frame.
If it detects multiple people in the room it will automatically use the wide angle to fit all of them into the frame. If there’s only one person in the video call then the camera will zoom in so that their face is front and center. Users will thus be able to just talk to the other person without having to worry about setting camera angles.
Facebook’s new moves are often met with concern from the privacy-focused so the company wants to hit the ground running with this product. Portal users will be able to disable the camera and microphone completely with a single tap. Both models come with a camera cover so that the lens can be blocked at anytime even when receiving incoming calls.
It has also clarified that Facebook doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of Portal video calls. All video calls on Portal are encrypted. The AI technology powering the camera features runs locally and not on Facebook’s servers.
Facebook will release Portal and Portal+ next month for $199 and $349 respectively. Customers can get $100 off if they buy two at once.