Facebook announces three new Portal devices with WhatsApp calling
Facebook is expanding its line of smart products for the home. The lineup, which includes the Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV, are designed to connect families and add WhatsApp calling as Mark Zuckerberg begins to further merge his messaging platforms.
The social media giant confirmed that the new Portal lineup is coming to the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S. and Canada, of course. There are three new devices in the family, Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV.
Portal and Portal Mini
The new, redesigned Portal is an update of last year’s smart display. It has a larger 10-inch HD display for video calls, displaying photos and watching videos in either portrait or landscape. It now also has an adaptive display that adjusts brightness and color to your surroundings in a bid to make video calls, as well as photos, look more natural.
The new Portal Mini is more of a picture frame design. It has an 8-inch HD display. A Superframe feature displays your photographs, videos and birthday reminders when you are not on a call. Both Portal and Portal Mini have a built-in speaker for listening to music and hearing the person on the other end of your call.
Portal TV is a camera and microphone that is designed to bring video-calling to the largest screen in your home. The idea is that it sits on top of or below your television, giving you the freedom to move around the room during calls. Facebook says that you can still be seen and heard, no matter where you are. It uses an AI-powered smart camera that intelligently pans and zooms to stay with the action so you are always in frame. Smart sound enhances the voice of whoever is speaking while minimizing unwanted background noise.
The big privacy and security question
Facebook is smart enough to know that it cannot launch products with cameras and microphones designed to live inside our homes without making a big song and dance about privacy. You can take this as gospel or with a big pinch of salt, but this is what the company says about its new Portal family:
“Portal has clear and simple settings for privacy and security. You can disable the camera and microphone with a single tap or a sliding switch. A red light next to the lens indicates the camera and microphone are off and there’s an integrated camera cover if you want to physically block the camera lens.”
Facebook also said that its Smart Camera and Smart Sound features use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. WhatsApp calls on Portal are end-to-end encrypted.
Amazon Alexa is integrated into all of the new Portal hardware. You can also control the smart home devices with your voice by saying “Hey Portal”… although only in English and only in the U.S. and Canada for the time being. Facebook says that more languages are coming.
Portal is now available to pre-order in the U.S., Canada and Europe from portal.facebook.com and select retail locations. Portal and Portal Mini begin shipping October 15 and Portal TV begins shipping November 5. The Portal Mini costs $129, the Portal costs $179 and the Portal TV is $149. You can bundle any two Portal devices to save $50.