Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Technology | By Lionel Gonzales

Facebook Portal Combines Video Calling and Alexa for $199

Facebook Portal Combines Video Calling and Alexa for $199

The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display which has a focus on video chats. If you splash out on two Portals, you can save $100, with a pair costing just $298. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too.

Both devices feature "Hey Portal" voice recognition and have tight integration with Facebook services.

Just as Amazon's newest Echo Show comes out, Facebook enters the smart display space with two devices of its own. Fast-forward to this Monday, and after the reported delay, Facebook has quietly unveiled the Portal video-chat and smart speaker platform. The bigger Portal+ sports a huge 15.6-inch Full HD display, which you can also rotate between portrait and landscape. "And, when played, music will be magically synced across your Portal devices".

It too has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera and four mic array, although its speaker output is 20W, provided by two tweeters and a single 4-inch bass unit.

Both models also include an internet-connected speaker that includes Amazon's voice-activated digital assistant, Alexa. Its Smart Camera feature will automatically pan and zoom the camera to keep everyone in view as you move around during the chat, and Smart Sound ensures that the background noise is reduced and enhances the volume of the other party on the call.

Called Portal, the tablet-like device with a 10-inch screen allows users to make video calls with their voice over Facebook's Messenger app.

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Portal runs on the open-source version of Google's Android mobile operating system, similar to many Amazon devices. You can use the Portal hands-free by using the command "Hey Portal", and it also has Amazon's Alexa built-in so you can access all of its great features as well.

For now, the Portal and the Portal+ will be available only in the US. Facebook hasn't been the most forthcoming company when it comes to letting users know which data it collects and how it's using that data. However, preorders will be limited to U.S. buyers initially - Amazon and Best Buy will also stock them. For those concerned about privacy, both Portals have a button that mutes their mics, as well as a physical cover for the camera.

Facebook said that despite this it doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of video calls, which are encrypted. You can delete the voice history from your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

Video chatting is an important feature that most smart displays have.

Portal represents Facebook's entry into that fray. One of the top features of the Portal and Portal+ is their smart camera - or may be some will find it creepy - that will follow people around in a room while they are on a video call.

Since Echo's release almost four years ago, both Google and Apple have followed Amazon in releasing smart speakers designed for use with their other digital services - some of them, at least.

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