Facebook has something it wants in every home to be always on, always watching always listening. Its called FaceBook Portal. The FaceBook Portal devices are video-calling machines that people can use to talk through a screen to other Facebook users. They have a 12-megapixel camera with high-definition video and artificial intelligence software; the camera follows people about as they move around. It’s a 10 inch screen that lets you make video calls to other Facebook users while being able to move and talk freely with a smart camera and smart sound.
What do they mean by smart camera? This is automatic framing, which Facebook calls “Smart Camera,” makes every video call more comfortable to participate in. The 12-megapixel camera can do 5x zoom and capture movement within a 140-degree range. The four-mic array flanks the lens on either side, doing double duty of listening to commands and noise canceling during chats. I don’t have a great reason why but its placement reminds me of the eye above the pyramid on the back of a dollar bill.
The Facebook Portal is Alexa enabled. To trigger the function, say “Hey Portal” and then “call [enter name here].” Simple enough. Though the actual “Hey Portal” features are essentially limited to things like making calls and putting the unit to sleep.
The FaceBook Portal Setup and Use
Setting up my Portal Plus was easy. Popped the thing out of the box, plopped it on my desk, plugged it in, connected to Wi-Fi and my Facebook account. I was frankly blown away by how well-designed Portal was. It has one purpose — calling other people who use Facebook. Surprisingly it does that extremely well. But Who still uses Facebook?
The great thing about these devices is that they are stationary and always on. It uses software to follow you around a room, always keeping the speaker in frame and cropped. I found this very useful. I expected it to be chintzy because it’s the company’s first piece of hardware. But shockingly, it wasn’t. The screen is huge on my Portal Plus. Imagine putting an iPad Pro on a tall vertical sound bar and adding an always-on camera in my home, connected to Facebook, all the time, 24 hours a day. I know Facebook has been working to improve how users can manage their private data on the platform. But Still.
The Final Thought
They took all the pieces that are available, condensed them and perfected the Video Calling. If Facebook was more trustworthy in the public’s eyes and Video calling wasn’t such an invasion of privacy to begin with , There could be one in every home. There won’t be.