Facebook Launches Dedicated Screens

John Lister's picture

Facebook is launching dedicated devices for video-calling friends and family. While they have some impressive technology, it's a bold move from a company whose reputation on privacy issues is controversial to say the least.

The devices are known as the "Portal" and "Portal+". They both offer some of the features of 'smart speakers' such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo, but the main function is for making video calls. That's reflected in the 10 inch screen of the Portal and the 15 inch screen of the Portal+.

There's no charge for making calls on the devices as they work through the existing Facebook Messenger system that allows video calls on phones and computers. It will be possible to switch between a phone and a Portal screen or vice-versa in the middle of a call, for example when arriving home. (Source: wired.co.uk)

Camera Tracks Callers

The most impressive - and perhaps creepiest - feature is that the camera on the screens has a 140 degree view and automatically moves and zooms to try to keep people in shot if they move around. The idea is that people can make calls without having to be in a fixed position, for example letting them catch up with family members while preparing dinner.

The system also means a caller can tap on the screen to select somebody's face and the picture will then center on that person, even if multiple people are in shot. One suggested use is for a doting grandmother who wants to watch their grandchild play even while continuing a conversation with the parent.

There's also some 'augmented reality' features such as parents being able to remotely read a story to a child and have related graphics appear on screen beside their face.

Lens Cap Included

The devices do have some built-in security features such as off buttons for both the microphone and camera, along with a physical cap to place over when camera lens when not in use.

Facebook insists it doesn't track or record the content of the calls and that it encrypts the content. However, it will keep records of who made calls, who they called, and when and how long the calls were. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

What's Your Opinion?

Would you use such a device? Does it offer any real advantage over services such as Skype? Do you trust Facebook to protect privacy with the Portal?

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LouisianaJoe's picture

I would not buy any device from Facebook or Google. They do enough spying without more help.

Netpilot's picture

Enough said.