Facebooks Portal and Portal+ devices for Facebook Messenger video calls go on sale today, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email. Following years of stealth development, the 15-inch Portal+ and 10-inch Portal with Alexa inside made their debuts last month. Portal costs $199, while Portal+ sells for $349. The main selling points for Portal are artificial intelligence-powered features like Smart Camera, which automatically zooms in on video calls and frames them to make sure all the people in a room are in the same shot. Smart Volume modulates microphone intensity so that everyone in the room can be heard at a reasonable volume. Facebook Portal with Messenger video calls and Amazons AlexaThe highlight feature can fix the cameras attention on a single person in the room and follow them so that, for example, grandpa can watch his grandkid as she runs around during a video call. Another big selling point for Portal is shared experiences during calls, which includes the ability for callers to play Spotify or Pandora music together at whatever volume each wants to hear. And Storytime offers augmented reality stories for children. To create more Storytime and in-call experiences, Facebook will open a Portal app third-party ecosystem for developers. When not being used for video calls, Portal devices have a feature called Superframe that displays pictures from personal Facebook albums, as well as recent photos of close friends. While Facebook hopes the 1.3 billion monthly active users of Facebook Messenger will see value in Portal and Portal+, early critics of the device cite Facebooks poor privacy record as among the chief reasons they will not be purchasing a Portal.
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.