Facebook to unveil smart home device this year
Facebook is set to enter the home device market this year with its first consumer hardware device.
According to sources close to the firm, the company will unveil a $499 (£370) video chat system to rival Amazon’s Echo Show in May.
Named ‘Portal’, it will feature a laptop-sized touchscreen and smart camera technology boosted by artificial intelligence.
The firm plans market it as a way for friends and family to video chat from a communal hub.
This puts in in direct competition with Amazon who has positioned its Echo Show device as a social hub for the kitchen.
If reports are correct, Portal will be available for consumers in the second half of this year.
The device will act as the first of many Facebook products for the home, according to a new report from online news outlet Cheddar.
“The device is designed to work in the home and represents Facebook’s first serious foray into selling consumer hardware, people familiar with the matter said,” Cheddar reports.
“Rather than position the device as a smart assistant akin to Amazon’s Echo speakers, Facebook intends to pitch Portal as a way for families and friends to stay connected through video chatting and other social features.
“Facebook plans a formal product introduction in early May at its annual developer conference and hopes to ship the device in the second half of 2018.”
The system will feature a 13-15 inch screen, wide-angle camera, microphone, and speakers boosted by artificial intelligence, and it will be geared for communal use in the living room.
A version in testing would enable the camera to automatically scan for faces in the room and link them to their Facebook accounts.
Like Amazon’s screen-equipped Echo Show, the device will be controlled by voice-command and designed for indoor use.
Facebook intends to let Portal access third-party streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, the report claims.
The firm recently signed big music licensing deals with Sony/ATV and Universal Music Group.
While Facebook itself has declined to comment, Andrew Bosworth, the company’s Vice Preident of augmented and virtual reality, wrote on Twitter: “Can’t comment on speculation but can confirm it’s going to be an exciting year for AR/VR. #F8.”
A Facebook spokesperson told MailOnline: “We don’t have anything more to add at the moment.”
If the rumours are true, this will be the first major product from the company’s experimental Building 8 lab, based in its Menlo Park campus in San Francisco, California.
The lab launched last year to develop hardware products, and in addition to Portal is rumoured to be working on a phone and a smart speaker.
Facebook’s Portal will compete directly with $229 (£199) Amazon’s Echo Show, which was released by the retail giant in May 2017.
The voice-controlled speaker features a 7-inch touchscreen display, which can be used to make video calls and playback video content.
On its website, Amazon said: “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things.
“Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free – just ask.”