What Is Facebook Portal?

Facebook's take on the home virtual assistant market

What We Like
  • Easy video calling with Facebook Friends and contacts.

  • Camera that keeps you in focus, even while moving.

  • Music and photos can be used during calls.

What We Don't Like
  • Privacy concerns in giving Facebook more personal data.

  • Unable to reach contacts not on Facebook.

  • Pricier than other similar devices.

What Is Facebook Portal?

Facebook Portal is the name of Facebook’s video messaging devices. There are two different devices under the Portal umbrella, which are differentiated by their screen sizes. The Facebook Portal has a 10.1-inch screen, while Facebook Portal+ has a 15.6-inch screen and is able to stand vertically or rotated horizontally for use in either orientation.

The main purpose of Facebook Portal is to connect with Facebook contacts, primarily through video calling. When not being used for audio or video calls, it can play music, be used to watch videos, display photos, or used as an Echo device with Alexa assistant.

A Facebook Portal.

Portal debuted with a price of $199, while Portal+ was priced at $349.

Portal Features and Benefits

  • 12MP camera with a 140-degree viewing angle.
  • The Portal has a 720p display resolution (1200x800), while the Portal+ has a 1080p resolution (1920x1080).
  • 4-Microphone array to pick up voices in any location throughout the room.
  • Portal has a 10W speakers; Portal+ has 20W speakers.
  • Bluetooth (4.2) and Wi-Fi are used for connectivity.
  • Built-in Alexa assistant to answer questions or execute voice commands, like other Echo devices.

What Can Facebook Portal Do?

Facebook’s tagline for Portal is: "If you can’t be there, feel there." Facebook wants to position Portal as a way to connect with Facebook contacts in a way that goes beyond a standard video call.

This is addressed in a few ways: Sight, Sound, and Interaction.

Portal has a smart artificially intelligent camera capable of tracking a person in the frame to continue keeping them in sight. The camera can also automatically zoom in and out for a wider field of view, based on people entering or leaving a room, for example.

When you're on a video call with others, you can listen to music and other media together from sources like Facebook Watch, Spotify, or iHeartMedia.

As mentioned previously, Portal features Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant so it can be used to find answers to questions, set timers, and more. It should also be able to use the Alexa skills you use on other Echo devices.

When the Portal isn’t being used for calls or Alexa assistance, it can passively display photos and videos from your Facebook account and serve as a large photo frame.

Facebook Portal is a purpose-driven device primarily meant to extend Facebook Messenger functionality. It's meant as a means of communication with a few other uses at launch, but its usefulness largely hangs on how often a person uses Facebook.

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