Facebook wants to put a camera in your living room

Facebook's new Portal device

Facebook's new Portal device

Facebook has revealed its new Portal and Portal+ smart speakers, with Alexa built-in.

The Portal features a large, wide-angle lens that definitely seems a notch or two above the Echo's camera.

You can call Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they don't have Portal.

London- Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is now dominated by Amazon and Google.

Facebook introduced Portal and Portal+ this week, smart displays of sorts that are catered to video calls, powered by Amazon Alexa and other AI features.

Both devices are available for preorder online in the U.S. through Facebook ($FB), Amazon ($AMZN), and Best Buy ($BBY).

This being Facebook you might also have privacy concerns, and rightly so.

Portal integrates Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to handle search queries, and Amazon collects audio files of requests made to Alexa. That's why the company has got some privacy in mind, with a button letting you disable the camera and microphone in one single click.

Facebook Portal+. The larger device can also pivot.

The Portal also sports Bluetooth, so it can play music when paired to a nearby device, but critically, like the Echo Show, it lacks official support for YouTube and other major streaming services such as Netflix. Visit portal.facebook.com for more information or to pre-order your Portal today. This means the ability to do voice or video calls over Facebook Messenger and Facebook Watch integration. Portal represents a new challenge because hardware is hard to tweak in the wild.

Although, when Portal and Portal+ are in use the cameras will indeed follow users. Facebook also promises it will not use Portal data to target users with adverts on its site, and says the device itself will not include any adverts - at launch, at least.

"The first thing consumers are going to wonder is 'how much sensitive data is this collecting about me?'" said John Breyault, vice president of public policy of telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group that has received donations from Facebook and other tech companies.

Billed as "private by design", the Facebook Portal vows to never listen to, view or store the contents of your video calls, keeping them secure at al times with strong encryption, while equipping the Smart Camera with "local" AI functionality and eschewing any type of facial recognition. The device only sends voice commands to Facebook's servers after the words "Hey, Portal" are said, according to Camargo.

They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to US customers in early November. The two devices are priced at $199 and $349 respectively and are available from Facebook, Amazon, and Best Buy.

Like its competitors, the Portal works with a handful of steaming media services such as Spotify, Pandora, Food Network and, of course, Facebook Watch. If you preorder, though, you can save $100 when buying two Portal devices at once.

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