Facebook to Debut 'Portal' Video Chat Device with Amazon Alexa

September 20, 2018

By Alex Heath

Facebook ($FB) plans to finally unveil its Portal video chat device for the home next week, Cheddar has learned.

The device will function similarly to an Amazon ($AMZN) Echo Show with social features and come in two screen sizes, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss unannounced plans. The larger device could be priced around $400, while the smaller one could go for around $300, the people said.

Facebook originally planned to announce Portal at its annual F8 developer conference in May of this year. But the company’s scandals, including the Cambridge Analytica data breach and the bombshell revelation that Russia used the platform to interfere with the 2016 elections, led executives to shelve the announcement at the last minute.

Portal will feature a privacy shutter that can cover the device’s wide-angle video camera, which uses artificial intelligence to recognize people in the frame and follow them as they move throughout a room. The shutter was recently developed in response to worsening public trust in the Facebook brand, an effect employees internally refer to as the “brand tax.”

Aside from its A.I.-powered video chat technology, Portal will feature integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and let users play music, watch videos, see cooking recipes, and get news briefs. Facebook employees have been testing the device in their homes for months and have shown Portal to major retailers.

When asked for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told Cheddar that the company doesn't "comment on rumor and speculation."

Portal represents Facebook’s first foray into selling its own consumer hardware outside of Oculus, the VR headset maker it acquired in 2014 for around $2 billion. Facebook designed software for a phone in partnership with HTC in 2013 that flopped.

Portal will be the first device to come out of Facebook’s skunkworks hardware lab called Building 8, which has publicly teased far-flung technology like a brain-controlled computer interface.

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