Amazon unveiled a whole bunch of new Alexa-enabled smart speakers and gadgets this week. Next week it may be Facebook’s turn.
According to Cheddar, Facebook plans to introduce a set of smart displays that work a lot like Amazon’s Echo Show. You’ll be able to interact with it by voice and use the smart display to make voice and video calls to contacts.
Cheddar says the Facebook Portal device will come in two sizes, with a smaller model selling for around $300 and a larger version priced at about $400.
Facebook’s Portal devices will use the company’s own video chat technology, but they’ll reportedly rely on Amazon’s Alexa voice service for other functions including music playback, videos, news briefs, and recipes, among other things.
The social networking company has been working on Portal for a while, but the company delayed its introduction in response to concerns that have arisen recently over Facebook’s handling of user data.
At a time when the company is trying to reassure users that it hears their privacy concerns, asking people to buy an always-listening, always-watching device that uses facial recognition to identify users might seem a bit insensitive.
Cheddar’s sources say Facebook added a privacy shutter that covers the camera when it’s not in use in response to those concerns. The move isn’t all that surprising: Lenovo and JBL launched Google Assistant-enabled smart displays this summer, and both of them have a privacy shutter that covers that camera. And a handful of laptop makers are also shipping computers with physical covers that you can slide over the webcam. It looks nicer than a piece of tape.
This wouldn’t be Facebook’s first foray into hardware. The company also owns Oculus, the maker of the Oculus Rift and Oculus Go virtual reality headsets.