Facebook reportedly plans to release a video chat device named Portal priced at $499. The device, sources familiar with the matter told news website Cheddar, will be released at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, set to take place May 1-2 in San Jose, California, and it will be available for purchase in late 2018.
The price is not yet final, and it could be decreased to compete with offerings like the Amazon Echo Show, which currently costs about $230. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Google announced that the first Google Assistant smart speakers with a screen are due out soon from companies like JBL, Lenovo, and Sony, starting at $199. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly said profit generated by Portal doesn’t matter as much as influencing a change in Facebook user behavior.
Portal will reportedly focus on video chat for family and friends rather than on acting as an AI assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana. Like Alexa and Google Assistant, Portal will respond to voice commands, and it will reportedly incorporate streaming services like Netflix and Spotify.
The news comes just a day after Facebook Messenger alerted intelligent assistant M users that the beta will end January 19. Lessons learned from deploying the assistant to a group of a few thousand people in a closed beta will be applied to future AI projects at Facebook, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. M used natural language processing to better understand the intent of users.
Anonymous sources also told Bloomberg last summer that Facebook intended to bring a video chat device to market in early 2018, possibly at the F8 developer conference. That scoop came one day after Facebook acquired AI assistant startup Ozlo. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Both Cheddar and Bloomberg report that the device will use a wide-angle camera lens to recognize faces associated with Facebook accounts. Last month, Facebook released new tools to help users better manage their identity on Facebook using facial recognition and alert people when their face appears on Facebook.
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