Facebook is planning to launch its rumored home video chat product, the one with a screen that looks similar to Amazon’s Echo Show later this year, according to a report reaching us from one of our sources. The report says the product will be called Portal, and that it will be the first finished hardware product from Facebook’s secretive Building 8 lab, which is an internal skunkworks division similar to Alphabet’s X that last year publicly announced its plans to develop brain-computer interfaces. The announcement of Portal is planned for early May, which would concur with Facebook’s F8 developer conference. However, news of the device was previously leaked back in July in a report gotten from Digitimes.
According to our reports, Facebook plans to sell the device for $499 and market it as a way for friends and family to video chat from a communal hub, in the same like manner that Amazon had stationed its Echo Show device as a fixture for the home kitchen. Portal would mark Facebook’s first raid into consumer hardware, following the company’s ill-fated partnership with HTC back in 2013. It was that partnership that resulted in the “Facebook phone,” which was a subpar Android-based smartphone that failed to take off and acted as a sour punctuation mark to Facebook’s attempt to break into consumer electronics.
Now, that Amazon and Google seem to be taking a more serious approach to hardware, Facebook appears to want in on the market just as smart speakers and other home devices are fast becoming boulevards to get artificial intelligence in the home. It’s unclear that Facebook would be more warmly welcomed in users’ homes than Amazon or Google, both of which are vastly more trustworthy in the eyes of US consumers. Still, reports state that Portal will act as the first of many Facebook products for the home, and that it will be making use of the company’s sophisticated computer vision capabilities to identify people through the device’s camera and have them paired with Facebook accounts.