Facebook launches AI video-calling device 'Portal'

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices "Portal", a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is currently dominated by Amazon and Google.

This image provided by Facebook shows the company's product called Portal Plus. Facebook is marketing the device as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to fuss with positioning and other controls.

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is currently dominated by Amazon and Google.

"It's been a big shift for the company We've seen a rise of video calling, on both Messenger and WhatsApp—it has been a tremendous trend," Facebook's vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth told AFP before the launch of "Portal".
But the launch of a product putting a camera into people's homes is likely to raise privacy issues for the social media platform, which has suffered several major data rift this year involving tens of millions of user accounts. The device which will be available for pre-order in the US from Monday, is designed 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.
Although, the social media platform acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house.
Bosworth said, "At some point, we realised that if we want to continue to advance our mission, the hardware we're dealing with... is limiting, and so we find ourselves building our own hardware to try and accomplish that mission."
Offering hands-free voice control, Portal comes in two sizes, a 10-inch screen which retails at $199 (173 euros) and a 15-inch version will go for $349. And to start the call, all it takes is: "Hey Portal."
During calls, it can also play music on Spotify or videos from Facebook Watch, as well as tell children stories via augmented effects app Story Time. And it also comes bundled with Amazon's voice interface 'Alexa' enabling users to shop or control household appliances.
This image provided by Facebook shows the company's product called Portal. Facebook is marketing the device Portal, as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to fuss with positioning and other controls.
During a conversation, the integrated camera can automatically zoom out to include a second person, or be instructed to follow a certain individual as they walk around, even picking out their voice over background noise.

But Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer. 
Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers, with it only sending voice commands to the servers after hearing, "Hey Portal".
The camera can be blocked by a cover and the device has a button for disabling both the lens and the microphone.
Security is a conscious affair for Facebook which had 50 million of its user accounts rifted by hackers at the end of last month in the latest privacy embarrassment.
Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit that the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016.
A British company, CA has been accused of collecting and exploiting users' personal data for political point of view without their consent.
Facebook has since reasserted itself as a guarantor of privacy. Bosworth admitted, "Frankly if we don't build the hardware, I do have concerns. It was crucial to put people first whether delivering a platform for virtual reality or augmented reality. You need to have abuse prevention very early on, you need to have security built in early on."
Source: Phys.org

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Scien-Tech News: Facebook launches AI video-calling device 'Portal'
Facebook launches AI video-calling device 'Portal'
Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices "Portal", a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is currently dominated by Amazon and Google.
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