Facebook is entering into the hardware space with Portal, a smart, hands-free video calling device. After witnessing it in person, I am here for it. The idea behind Portal is to make it easier for you to connect with your community, driving home Facebook’s overall mission, and I believe, Portal will do just that. Here is why.
After collecting data, the online media giant found that over 400M people use voice and video chat on Messenger every month, there were over 17 billion real-time video chats on Messenger in 2017 and this was two times the number of chat sessions compared to 2016. Facebook’s reach is growing tremendously and the better connectivity that the tech giant can produce, the more people will gravitate toward the solution, in my opinion.
The concept of Facebook Messenger has been a great one but, there is definitely room for products overlays. With Messenger and other systems like FaceTime, in many cases, users didn’t feel completely connected—they had to schedule a time in order to connect. Also, the quality was unreliable and users had to remain in front of a device when they were finally able to reach a contact on the other end. Additionally, the small devices had poor video and audio quality, often making it difficult to see the person on the other end.
Portal aims to solve those issues. The device has a smart camera, with 12 megapixels and a 140-degree viewing angle that allows for an AI-powered camera that keeps you in the frame as you move, and widens as more people enter the shot. Smart Sound, an AI-powered microphone, enhances the voice of whoever is talking, even as they move; and filters out unwanted background noise. A high-definition screen rotates from vertical to horizontal.
Portal is built on top of Facebook Messenger, allowing you to call any of your Facebook friends with ease. Say “Hey Portal, call Lisa,” and it starts to dial. If this reminds you of Alexa, it’s because Portal has built-in Alexa integration allowing you to ask for sports scores, check the weather, control smart home devices, and order groceries.
So how much will this run you? The small form-factor Portal is priced at $199 and the larger version, Portal+ is priced at $349 but both can be purchased for $298 if you pre-order. The devices ships in November and could make a great Christmas gift if you are in the mood for some early holiday shopping.
For more information on Portal, click here.