Rumors have been flying about since the middle of 2017 that Facebook is building a smart speaker with a large touchscreen to rival Amazon's Echo Show. It appears now that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is in the past, Facebook may finally be ready for a final release of the Portal video chat device.
Originally, the speaker was believed to be slated for release at Facebook's F8 conference held in May, but privacy concerns could be responsible for the delay. After all, a device that can listen to you inside your home all the time should cause some concern.
Facebook's version of an Echo Show is said to come in two different screen sizes. Estimates place the pricing for the smaller version at $300 with the larger display going for around $400. As the second generation Echo Show has just launched at $229.99, Facebook really needs to bring some impressive features to justify the premium.
Given that privacy is a major concern for anything related to Facebook, Portal will feature a built-in shutter that can cover the camera. The wide-angle camera will use AI to detect humans and track them as they move within the field of view.
Acting as a digital assistant, Portal will be powered by Amazon's Alexa. There has been no mention of Google Assistant making it unlikely to be supported from what we currently know.
Portal may be the first time that Facebook may put its own name on a consumer hardware product. Although Facebook owns Oculus and its portfolio of VR equipment, not as many consumers are likely to think twice about it.
As the market for smart home devices is flooded with many similar products, there is the question of what we actually want to see from these smart devices. Why does anyone even want something that is neither as convenient as a tablet nor as inexpensive as a small virtual assistant?