Facebook launches AI-powered video chat devices

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The tablet-sized Portal has a 10.1-inch 1200 x 800 display, a built-in 10-watt speaker, and a 12 MP camera. They simply activate the device using a wake word "Portal" for each command. It's like having your own cinematographer and sound crew direct your personal video calls.

Beyond merely winning consumers' trust, Facebook hopes the Portal can present a competitive alternative to Amazon's rivaling Echo Show video calling device.

Facebook also employs a unique technology that allows the device to follow the user as he or she moves about the room.

"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. To change the passcode, users require to provide your Facebook password.

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Additionally, "Facebook doesn't listen to, view or keep the contents of your Portal video calls".

The Portal costs $199 and has a 720p screen resolution that stays fixed in a horizontal oriented with a speaker. In addition, video calls on the Portal are encrypted, which means the calls are always secure.

Amazon, Google and Apple already have significant head starts over Facebook in the connected speaker market.

The camera can be blocked by a cover and the device has a button for disabling both the lens and the microphone. Facebook planned to announce what has become the Portal (formerly code-named "Aloha" at Facebook) at its annual developer conference, F8, in San Jose, California, on May 1, according to Bloomberg. Portal has Amazon Alexa built in for plenty of extra functionality like asking for sports scores, about the weather forecast, controlling smart home devices, ordering gifts and groceries, and more. Facebook has partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, as well as Facebook Watch, Food Network and Newsy - others will come soon. Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify the users.

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Facebook has made the call to tap a market dominated by Amazon and Google, launching on Monday a range of AI-powered video-calling devices.

Unsurprisingly Facebook installs a version of Messenger on the Portal devices and you can converse freely with other Messenger users whatever platform they might be on.

Some other selling points: There are some augmented-reality features and animated skins available for an interactive stories mode, which seems fun if you're talking to your kids from far away. This feature brings stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals.

This week will see three new ones in the US: Facebook just unveiled the Portal, Amazon opened pre-orders for the second generation Echo Show, and Google is (at this writing) hours away from unveiling the Google Home Hub. You can bring Portal home for $199 Dollars and Portal+ for $349 USD.

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