While Facebook is frequently late to the game, it rarely allows other industry titans to run unopposed in any category, from messaging apps to photo sharing to virtual reality. Therefore, it might not surprise you to learn that Facebook is reportedly building a video chat device called “Portal,” set to launch in the second half of 2018.
According to a report from online news network Cheddar, the device will be similar to Amazon’s Echo Show, which is a voice-controlled virtual assistant as well as an interactive display. But while the Portal may look similar to the Echo Show, Facebook will position it as a way for families to stay connected with video calls and social features.
As Cheddar notes, this will be Facebook’s first foray into consumer hardware, with the device built to work both at home and in the office. Like other smart speakers, it is intended to be used indoors, and can be controlled with voice commands. Sources claim that Facebook will also equip the Portal video chat device with a wide-angle lens that will be capable of recognizing faces and syncing them up with their Facebook accounts automatically.
Also similar to other smart speakers, Facebook’s Portal will be able to access streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. And as Cheddar notes, Facebook recently announced comprehensive licensing deals with both Sony/ATV and Universal Music Group. Now we’re starting to get an idea of the company’s long-term plans.
Facebook is currently planning to officially unveil the device at its F8 developer conference in May and then ship it before the end of the year. Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has told employees that profit matters less than getting the Portal into as many homes as possible, the planned price for the device is $499. That’s more than double what it costs to buy an Echo Show on Amazon ($230), and likely a prohibitive price for many. Once it launches, Facebook will reportedly sell the Portal at pop-up stores as well as online.