Facebook is working on its own Amazon Echo Show alternative called Portal, according to financial broadcaster, Cheddar. The device would be the social giant’s first major foray into hardware, and is expected to be formally unveiled in May at the company’s annual developer conference.
Portal is designed as a family communications device. Suppose you’ve got relatives far away; rather than head to your laptop and call them via Messenger, you can just use this one device.
Like the Amazon Echo Show, Portal is designed to be used indoors. But unlike the Show, it places the most emphasis on video chatting, and isn’t strictly speaking a personal assistant in the same vein.
According to Cheddar’s Alex Heath, Portal’s camera boasts a wide angle lens that can recognize individuals (and therefore log them into their personal Facebook accounts), and can be controlled via voice commands.
Unfortunately, no renders have leaked out, meaning we don’t know what it looks like.
Like the Echo Show, you can expect third-party players to hitch a ride on Facebook’s bandwagon. Heath mentions the company plans to allow Portal to access streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, and has recently signed licensing deals with several major record labels.
Facebook is yet to confirm the existence of Portal, although it hasn’t outright denied it, either. This cryptic tweet from the company’s Vice President of VR and AR leaves an awful lot to the imagination.
— Boz (@boztank) January 9, 2018
Per Cheddar, Facebooks plans to ship units later this year. You should be able to pick one up for $499, which is pretty steep. In comparison, the Echo Show retails for $229.
If Portal comes to fruition, however, it’ll have one major advantage: Facebook is widely popular, and with 1.3 billion monthly active users, Messenger is easily one of the most popular messaging property around. With a large potential customer base, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Portal will build traction.