Facebook might be getting into the hardware business.
According to a report from Cheddar's Alex Heath, Facebook has developed a video chat device. It's called Portal, and it's meant to compete with Amazon’s Echo Show and other Echo devices. Facebook reportedly plans to market Portal as a way for you and your Facebook friends to stay connected via video chatting and other social features.
It's an indoor device that can be controlled through voice commands. It'll supposedly have a wide-angle lens that's facial-recognition enabled. It'll be able to recognise individual faces and then connect them with their individual Facebook accounts. Facebook already uses facial recognition to detect users' faces in photos they aren’t tagged in.
Portal, which is internally referred to by the codename Aloha, comes from Facebook's Building 8 consumer hardware lab. It's supposed to act like a sort of video phone, and it will allow access to streaming services like Spotify and Netflix. Keep in mind Facebook recently signed music licensing deals with Sony/ATV and Universal Music Group.
- Facebook Personal Fundraisers: What are they?
- What's the point of Snapchat and how does it work?
- What is Facebook Live, how does it work, and which devices support it?
As for when you can expect to see Facebook unveil Portal, the report said a May introduction is planned. The company will use its annual F8 developer conference to show it off, and then it will ship the device in the second half of 2018. It'll likely cost $499, but Facebook could lower that price. Mind you, the Echo Show costs $230.
Cheddar said CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't focused on whether the device generates profit. He just wants it to "change user behavior and encourage phone-like usage among owners". Interestingly, this news follows an announcement that Facebook will shut down its M assistant, so don't expect to have access to that AI feature on Portal.
Facebook is planning to sell Portal through pop-up stores and online. Currently, we have no idea what the device looks like or how it will really work and function, but we'll keep you posted as we learn more.