Facebook finally unveiled its home-based video calling device for the people to stay connected. The device, which the company named Portal comes with Alexa support and its camera is capable of zooming the users by following wherever they go in the room. Currently, the social media platform launched Portal in two version one with a 10-inch screen for $199 and the Portal+ with 15.6 inches for $349. The big screen standing device comes with hi-fi audio speaker, mic and a camera for the users to do video calling.
Initially, with Portal, you will be getting Facebook Messenger for video calling to your family and friends, Spotify and Pandora for streaming music, and Amazon’s Alexa support. Besides, the company promises to add Facebook Watch and other third-party apps for video content in the future. However, the Facebook product misses on the Netflix and YouTube that could be a big hit.
What is Facebook Portal?
According to Facebook Portal marketing lead Dave Kaufman, the secret building 8 lab from Menlo Park headquarters started building Portal 18 months ago. Facebook says, ‘If you can’t be there, feel there,’ for its newly launched product. With the aim to cut down the distance between family and friends the company started work on Portal. Kaufman mentioned that Portal is not a conventional chatting tool, instead its the way of making sure that you feel like you are in the same room while a thousand miles apart from someone.
Portal is basically a video chatting device that comes with a big screen and a big woofer for the users. Facebook Portal offers you seamlessly video call via Facebook Messenger to others. The catch is that while calling the device’s camera shifts automatically to zoom the user by following his/her in the room. So, instead of giving a standard video chatting platform.
Facebook launched a device that you can put into your home for hassle-free video calling without even touching the camera or device. You can move around your kitchen to prepare the meal while talking to anyone and Facebook Portal will keep you in the center of the frame.
Why Facebook built Portal device?
Kaufman said to Techcrunch, “it’s clear that Facebook has done a good job when you’re talking about the breadth of human connection, but we’re focusing on the depth of connection.” Besides, he also shared that according to a survey 93 percent of the face to face conversation with our parents are over when we pass high school.
The statistics make the people in Facebook think about bridging this gap and bring people more closely. With Portal, the company believes people will be able to connect at a more personal level instead of just communicating. Along with this Facebook also ensured to make the device simple, so the kids and grandparents can easily interact with it even they don’t know how to use smartphones.
What Facebook Portal has and how does it work?
Facebook Portal and Portal+ come with a screen for the users to interact with it. However, the device also works on your voice commands, so you won’t be needing much to touch the screen. The Portal comes with a 10-inch screen while Portal+ owns a big 15.6-inch display, both the models have a vertical speaker/woofer at the back on which the screen is mounted.
The Portal+ could be rotated in the horizontal-orientation just sliding the screen across the vertical support. The device also comes with a microphone to support the audio and video call, and the camera is placed at the top of the vertical stand with a cap to hide it.
Facebook has used the Android Open Source SDK for the Portal and built entirely a new UI based upon it. Besides, Portal have Alexa integration, and according to the company, Google Assistance could be the next. Facebook wants to integrate the maximum number smart home devices to provide a convenient environment to the users by bringing the best out of each device.
Talking about Portal, while in sleep mode it runs the slideshow of your favorite Facebook images, videos along with notifications and birthday reminders. On navigating to the home screen you will see the suggested Messenger contacts including the favorite ones whom you can call either by tapping or saying, ‘Hey Portal call Amanda,” yes just like Siri and Google, Facebook also integrated the ‘Hey Portal’ voice navigation to its device. Saying the magical words is enough to wake up Portal.
Calling experience via Facebook Portal?
According to Facebook, almost 400 million of its users takes help of Facebook Messenger to call their family and friends. Moreover, 17 billion Messenger calls were made by the Facebook users in 2017. These big numbers convinced Facebook to provide a standalone device for Facebook users for making video calls.
Once you tap on any contact, Portal connects the call, and 12 MP with a 140-degree rotating camera gets activated. The camera will keep you in focus and an array of four audio will be following your voices to keep it clear and crisp. The device will keep you in the frame even when you roam around the kitchen or keep playing with your dog. Portal will adjust the screen, and its camera will keep the focus on your no matter where you move within the range.
If another person joins you, the device will adjust the screen accordingly to show you both. Tapping on a person’s face will make Portal put spotlight around that person. Talking about the zooming feature, Facebook explained that it is not a facial recognition technology.
Instead, the company used a technology called 2D that works locally on your device to track your position and enable the camera to keep you in the frame. For, now Portal doesn’t recognize the pets, but after many people asked Facebook about it, the company is planning to make it possible.
Features Of Facebook Portal
The most impressive feature that I personally liked in Portal is the AR filters while calling. You can add different types of filters from sleeping cat on your head to different faces. But, the AR Story Time is something new, the feature enables the caller to use the popular kid stories from books as an AR experience. The feature will turn your screen into the story illustration, and you will act as a character in it.
For example, there is a three pig story which will jump converting your screen into the forest. You can act like a big bad wolf to entertain the kids on the other side of the call. Facebook added this feature by keeping the conversation between minors and grandparents in mind as they don’t have much to talk about, the story will help them in spending quality time.
What else Facebook Portal has?
Apart from video calling, Portal has Alexa as its partner to keep people entertained; you can ask Alexa to open Spotify or Pandora for streaming music on Portal. The 4-inch woofer works well for loud and clear music, which can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker.
Besides, you can use Newsy and Food Network to keep yourself occupied with short videos telling what’s happening around the world and teaching you new recipes for the kitchen. Along with this News Feed and Facebook Watch also provides some of the viral and entertaining video content.
What Facebook Portal can’t do?
Facebook Portal does have some weak spots that could endanger its future in the market. There is no voice control texting feature for the users; although Messenger is being tested with internally speech texting, still we have to wait for it come on Portal.
More importantly, you cannot access WhatsApp, Instagram DM or any web browsers. The other significant hit back is the lack of big video streaming services like YouTube or Netflix. The other factor that could restrain people from buying Portal is the absence of portability as it will be stuck to a table, unlike a smartphone.
Cost of Facebook Portal and from where can you buy it?
As I have already told you Facebook Portal is available in two sizes, 10 inches and 15.6 inches, which is Portal+. Facebook Portal costs $199 where Portal+ costs $349; Facebook is also giving a $100 discount on buying two Portal devices. You can buy the device directly from the company’s websites portal.facebook.com. Now, you can pre-order the device on the website, and the company will start shipping Portal in November.
What about trusting Facebook with privacy?
The decision to buy Facebook Portal depends mainly upon the people’s choice whether they want to trust the company with their personal space or not. Considering the recent incidents including the Cambridge Analytica data breach raises an appropriable question on the company’s device security that will have access to your home via camera and microphones.
To answer these questions, Facebook added a dedicated button at the top of the camera that disconnects the camera and microphone from collecting any visual or audio. Besides, Facebook claims that Portal didn’t save any video or voice commands of the users.
To garner the people trust for Portal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo of his daughters using Portal at home.
Overall Portal could be a big thing in the video chatting and smart home device, but it has to go a long way to replace Alexa and Google Home.