Facebook wants to put a camera in your living room

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Facebook has announced Portal, a series of devices that let you do voice or video calls to other Facebook and Messenger users. When you're not using the 10-inch touch screen for calls, it displays images from Facebook, such as a shared album you choose. As you might expect, its main objective is to connect you with other Facebook users via Messenger; say "Hey Portal" to start a video call. The device functions as a smart speaker similar to Amazon and Google's own smart home devices, but the Portal includes a camera amongst its features.

We've reached out to Facebook to find out about worldwide availability and will update with any new information. For those who are fearless enough with their data to purchase two, there's a $100 discount. It is controlled using voice commands, although Facebook has eschewed the personal approach of competitors such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa in favour of a more disembodied presence: users initiate instructions with: "Hey Portal". However, putting history aside, Facebook chose to launch their first Facebook-branded piece of hardware today, the Portal. But the company also says the camera and microphone can be "completely" disabled with a single tap. Facebook is also providing users with the option to set a 4 to 12-digit passcode for Portal before anyone can use it.

Video calls conducted on a Portal are encrypted, while AI technology runs locally on the devices, not Facebook servers.

They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to USA customers in early November.

Although Amazon isn't listed as a music partner, Facebook's "Portal" devices do have Amazon Alexa built in. Facebook also says it won't store any of the video sent through the camera on the computers in its data centers. Fast-forward to this Monday, and after the reported delay, Facebook has quietly unveiled the Portal video-chat and smart speaker platform.

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

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The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display.

Both speakers feature large displays and cameras to facilitate video calling and other communication functionality.

While the long-anticipated product could eventually open up fresh display advertising revenue streams for Facebook, its launch comes in the aftermath of the social network's biggest ever data breach and amid growing concerns around user privacy.

The Portal comes in two configurations: A $US200 ($283) model with a 10.1-inch 720p display, and the pricier $US350 ($496) Portal+, which features a larger 15.6-inch 1080p display that can rotate between portrait and landscape view.

During a conversation, the integrated camera can automatically zoom out to include a second person, or be instructed to follow a certain individual as they walk around.