Fast-forward to this Monday, and after the reported delay, Facebook has quietly unveiled the Portal video-chat and smart speaker platform.
The cheaper Portal has a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display that's fixed in landscape mode, while the Portal+ has a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 screen that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.
The device, which will be available for pre-order in the United States from Monday, is created to allow users to make video calls at home without having to stand immediately in front of the screen or hold a phone at arm´s length.
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.
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.
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Now, Facebook is trying to get consumers to trust the company with a device that contains its own hardware, microphone and camera in the middle of their homes, so it's no wonder Facebook is stressing the privacy features, such as ways to disable the mic and cover the camera.
The main selling point of these devices is that the cameras track action and automatically pan and zoom to keep the subjects of the video in view. You'll be able to access Augmented Reality effects on your video calls, just like on Messenger. Users activate the device by using the wake word "Portal" to make calls. But the company has collaborated with Amazon to build-in Alexa as voice AI, delivering the functionality of an Echo device.
Both devices arrive in November, but you can pre-order them starting today for $199 and $349 via portal.facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy. Plus, the AI tech runs locally, it reports, and the camera doesn't use facial recognition or identify users.
Facebook representatives prefer to talk about their "mission" rather than business models and profits, but wireless speakers and video calls are a growing market.
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With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls.
Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.
Again, Portal and Portal+ are up for pre-order in the USA on Facebook, as well as Amazon and Best Buy. Portal also comes with Facebook and Messenger integration. Sadly neither of them are going to be available outside the USA for the immediate future.
The move also marks Facebook's first foray into the hardware space outwith Oculus - the VR headset company it snapped up in 2014.
Not too long ago the Cambridge Analytica scandal popped up, as you well remember I'm sure. Facebook is about connecting people, after all. Select content partners like Spotify ($SPOT), Pandora ($P), Food Network, and Newsy are integrated into the devices at launch, with plans to add more services over time. Both are Amazon Alexa-enabled video calling devices.
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Still, Amazon has shipped 1 million of its Echo speakers with displays over the last year, according to research firm Canalys, which expects 4 million such devices across brands to ship globally next year.