Word leaked in mid-2017 that Facebook was planning to build a smart speaker with an integrated 15-inch touchscreen display to compete with Amazon’s Echo Show. On Tuesday, additional details regarding the device – codenamed Portal – surfaced courtesy of Cheddar.
Sources familiar with the matter tell the publication that Facebook intends to pitch Portal not as a traditional smart assistant like the Echo but rather, as a device to help friends and family remain in touch – specifically, via video chatting and related social features.
The communications tool will be controlled primarily through voice commands and will be equipped with a wide-angle lens that allows the device’s camera to automatically recognize faces and associate them with Facebook accounts. Users will also be able to stream content from services like Netflix and Spotify.
A formal product introduction is expected in early May at Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8. Portal will reportedly debut at a price point of $499 which is significantly more expensive than the $230 Amazon is currently charging for its Echo Show.
That said, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly told employees that he doesn’t care if the device generates a profit. Instead, he wants to see it change user behavior and become more like a phone.
Look for Portal to ship during the second half of 2018 and be sold online and at pop-up stores.
Facebook’s Oculus VR division is also planning to release a cheaper standalone VR headset this year. That device, dubbed the Oculus Go, will debut at $199 and compete with similar offerings from HTC and Microsoft.