New Facebook Portal Family Brings Smart Video Calling on Your TV
Facebook is expanding the Portal family of home video-calling devices with three new models: Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV.
The compay is also introducing a new way to make calls using WhatsApp and bringing Portal to more countries.
In addition to the US and Canada, the Portal lineup is coming to the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Portal is now available to pre-order in the US, Canada and Europe from portal.facebook.com and select retail locations. Portal and Portal Mini begin shipping October 15 and Portal TV begins shipping November 5. Portal Mini is $129 USD, Portal is $179 USD and Portal TV is $149 USD or bundle any two Portal devices for $50 off.
Portal Mini, Portal and Portal TV
The redesigned Portal and the new Portal Mini feature a picture frame design to fit into any home. Portal Mini has an 8-inch HD display and Portal has larger 10-inch HD display for video calls, displaying photos and watching videos in either portrait or landscape orientations. An adaptive display adjusts brightness and color to your surroundings so that video calls as well as photos and videos on Superframe look natural. Both Portal and Portal Mini also have a built-in speaker for listening to music when you are not on a call.
The Portal TV, can be connected to a TV set with standard HDMI cable and has a camera and several microphones to enable video calling via Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp services. The device brings smart video-calling to the largest screen in your home. It sits on top of or below your television, giving you the freedom to move around during calls and still be seen and heard. . It supports Spotify, along with Amazon’s Prime Video service, Ring cameras and Alexa voice assistant. But it lacks content from Netflix Inc. and some other popular video-streaming services. That may make it difficult to compete without the range of video and apps offered by rival streaming devices from Roku Inc., Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Portal’s AI-powered Smart Camera intelligently pans and zooms to stay with the action so you can move and talk freely while always being in frame. And Smart Sound enhances the voice of whoever is speaking while minimizing unwanted background noise.
Facebook launched its first Portal device amid intense scrutiny of its privacy practices from U.S. and European regulators in 2018, prompting backlash from several tech reviewers. Now Facebook says that Portal has simple settings for privacy and security. You can disable the camera and microphone with a tap or a sliding switch. A red light next to the lens indicates the camera and microphone are off and there’s an integrated camera cover if you want to physically block the camera lens.
For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers.
If you have “Hey Portal” enabled, Portal listens for the phrase “Hey Portal.” If it’s detected, Portal sends a short audio recording and transcript of the “Hey Portal” voice interaction to Facebook. Facebook said that a trained team may review a sample to make the company's voice services more accurate. You can view, hear and delete any of your “Hey Portal” voice interactions in your Facebook Activity Log. You can also turn off voice storage in Settings anytime, which means that your voice interactions are not stored or reviewed.
WhatsApp Calling on Portal
Facebook is also adding a new way to connect with your friends on Portal through WhatsApp, in addition to Messenger calling. All WhatsApp calls on Portal are end-to-end encrypted.
Story Time, AR and Watch Together
Story Time on Portal brings stories to life with animation, music and AR effects. Earlier this year Facebook announced three new children’s book series coming to Story Time: Llama Llama, Pete the Cat and Otto. These new stories are available now.
Portal TV also lets you watch shows like “Red Table Talk” and other Facebook Watch content together with friends or family who aren’t there with you.
Superframe Photos and Videos
When you’re not on a call, Portal is a digital photo frame. Portal’s Superframe can display photos, videos and birthday reminders.
Amazon Prime Video and More
With the Amazon Prime Video app on Portal, you can stream shows and movies, including Amazon Originals. You can also download other apps like SHOWTIME, CBS All Access, Starz, Pluto TV, Red Bull TV and Neverthink with more apps coming soon. Portal also has a speaker so you can listen to music from Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio and iHeartRadio Family.
‘Hey Portal’ Voice Control + Amazon Alexa
Portal offers hands-free voice control. Today, “Hey Portal” is available in US/Canada English with more languages coming. All Portal devices have Alexa built in, and you now have access to Alexa skills on Portal. Listen to music, check the news, get local search results, control your smart home and view the results on screen.
Facebook's hardware division is still a footnote to its booming advertising business. Facebook doesn’t explicitly state the revenue for its Oculus or Portal hardware divisions, instead rolling both into the category of “payments and other fees” in its earnings reports. Revenue from that division generated $262 million in the second quarter, which represents less than 2% of the company’s total revenue.