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Facebook’s Portal video chat devices launch today


Facebooks home video chat devices, the Portal and Portal Plus, are going on sale today, a month after they were initially announced. The products are almost exclusively focused on video chatting. While they also display photos, play music, and support a small number of video networks, their feature set is very limited at launch — you cant even browse Facebook on them. Youre primarily meant to use them to chat with people over Facebook Messenger, and Facebook has built in some smart camera tricks to make that easier. Both devices have a single, fixed camera at the top, but the camera will zoom in and follow you around, so that you dont have to hold a phone up to your face while youre chatting. That way, you can move throughout a room and remain engaged on a call. But the story of this product isnt just what it can and cant do — its whether people will be willing to bring a Facebook-connected mic and camera into their home at all. Facebook has emphasized the privacy features built in here (theres an off button that completely deactivates the camera and mics), but that may not be enough to comfort those already skeptical of the company, which has been beset with recent privacy scandals. Both the Portal and Portal Plus are shipping today. Theyll be available from Facebooks website, as well as through Best Buy and Amazon, which will also have the devices in stores. The smaller Portal sells for $199, and the larger Portal Plus goes for $349. At launch, youll be able to get a $100 discount if you buy two at once — which makes some sense, since youll probably want another Portal user to chat with.

Facebook's Portal video chat displays go on sale in the US


Portal will set you back $199, while Portal+ will cost you $349. Facebook's Portal and Portal+ smart displays are now available in the US via Amazon, Best Buy and their own, ahem, portal. The social network created the devices with video chats in mind, giving them AI-powered cameras that can track you as you move around while talking to friends and family. It can call anyone on Messenger, not just someone who also has a Portal, so you can use it to call most people in your friends list. Engadget Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar got the chance to see it in action in October and found that the picture on screen shifted smoothly to keep the person in frame. He said it looked even better in portrait mode -- almost as if the other person were truly in the same room. In addition to its AI-powered cameras, Facebook's Portal devices also have built-in access to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, along with a bunch of security features. It has a camera and microphone off button, a camera lens cover and the ability to set up a four-to-12 digit passcode. Facebook is also attempting to allay any misgivings by publishing details about the devices' security. It said it will "not listen to, view or keep the contents" of Portal video calls, and hence cannot use them for advertising purposes. Presumably, that means you won't suddenly get, say, diaper ads if you use the device to plan a baby shower for your BFF. Also, Portal calls are encrypted, and the social network says it will not show Facebook ads on the device at all. The 10-inch Portal (with a 1280 x 800 screen) will set you back $199, while the 15-inch Portal+ (with a 1920 x 1080 pivoting display) will cost you $349. However, you can get $100 off the total price if you're buying any two of them this holiday season, so you can give the other one to a friend or a family member you talk to all the time.