Facebook has introduced a pair of camera-equipped devices called the Portal and Portal Plus in an attempt to gain a physical foothold in people’s homes.
The artificial intelligence-powered hardware is primarily designed for video-calling and features a 12-megapixel camera that is able to follow people around the room. Using AI, its cameras can zoom and pan as people move around, making sure the camera always has its user in its sights.
The smart home devices – which feature Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant – are currently only available for pre-order in the United States, with the Portal costing $199 (estimated R2 960) and the Portal Plus costing $349 (estimated R5205).
Similar to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the voice assistant on Facebook’s Portal devices is always listening in order to capture commands.
Facebook had reportedly delayed the launch of the video-calling device as a result of the privacy scandal surrounding revelations that 87 million people had their data harvested for the purpose of political profiling.
Trust in Facebook dropped by 66 percent in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to an April report by the Ponemon Institute.
More recently, Facebook has been hit by other scandals, including a major hack that compromised between 50 million and 90 million of its users.
Overcoming the trust issues that inevitably come along with these data breaches will be crucial to the success of Portal and Portal Plus.
One way of achieving this, Facebook believes, is by including a clip-on camera shield that physically blocks the lens from capturing images or video.
There is no similar feature for the Portal’s microphone, however, there is a button that claims to completely disable the mic and camera by cutting the electronic circuits.