privacy mishaps and the device's price and limited functionality could slow it from taking on market leaders Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.

Facebook's new Portal and Portal+ smart displays.

It's not year clear when Facebook will be launching the devices in markets outside the United States, or how much they'll cost, but we've reached out to Facebook and we'll update this story as soon as we know more.

London- Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is now dominated by Amazon and Google.


The main selling point of these devices is that the cameras track action and automatically pan and zoom to keep the subjects of the video in view. Facebook has incorporating augmented reality (AR) effects - powered by their Spark AR platform - to make calls fun and interactive.

Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after a user says: "Hey Portal", just like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Portal also has Amazon Alexa built in, so you have access to a robust voice experience to ask for sports scores, check the weather, control smart home devices, order groceries, and more.

For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers.

Security is a sensitive issue for Facebook which had 50 million of its user accounts breached by hackers at the end of last month in the latest privacy embarrassment. Facebook said it can distinguish between different users and focus on them, but does not use facial recognition. The Facebook Portal costs $199 and the Portal+ retails for $349. You can delete your Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button. The Portal and Portal Plus are available for preorder today, and will ship in November.


Facebook launched the devices in 10-inch and 12-inch variants.

. Portal will also have an advantage over Amazon and Google's smarthome devices, being able to call any smartphone that has Facebook Messenger installed.

Do you plan on picking up a new Portal?

"Yet the fancy gadget's success depends not on functionality, but whether people are willing to put a Facebook camera and microphone in their home even with a physical clip-on privacy shield", TechCrunch wrote in its review.

It does seem theoretically possible to turn the smaller Portal on its side to achieve a portrait mode view, but until we get some hands-on time with the device we don't know if that's an available option. Finally, the Portal devices will support additional apps, including Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, Newsy, as well as Facebook Watch.

Since Echo's release almost four years ago, both Google and Apple have followed Amazon in releasing smart speakers designed for use with their other digital services - some of them, at least.


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