Facebook Launches Its First Video Chat Device: Portal
Facebook is aiming to make video chat a more natural, seamless experience with the release of its first hardware device, Portal.
Facebook's Portal combines a video screen with an artificial intelligence-powered camera that tracks users' movements, keeping them in the frame throughout the chat. The device also features four integrated microphones that pick up speech, regardless of where the user is in the room. These features mean that, unlike smartphone and computer video-chat apps, Portal allows the user to move and speak freely, as if their conversation were happening face to face.
With Portal, Facebook is tapping into a global trend of dynamic, borderless living, facilitating a realistic communication experience through technology (for more on this, see our report Being Borderless). Facebook also appears to be targeting family relationships: Portal's Story Time, an augmented reality application, allows users to read stories to loved ones using a teleprompter while smart visuals and audio illustrate the story. For more on how technology is supporting new family dynamics, see Crafting Modern Connections, part of our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy.
Facebook is wise to capitalise on the popularity of video chat: in 2017, it hosted 17 billion video chats on its Messenger platform (Facebook, 2017). However, reaction to Portal has been mixed; reviewers have found the camera tracking effective, but are concerned about privacy in light of Facebook's recent data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook describes Portal as "private by design", fitting it with features such as a camera cover and a button to completely disable the visual and audio recording functions, with the aim of increasing the product's privacy credentials. For more on how to preserve consumer privacy, see our Safeguarding Security report.