Facebook announced a trio of new home video-calling devices today as part of its Portal line. The new models include the redesigned Portal, Portal Mini, and Portal TV. All three devices feature cameras and microphones that are activated when making calls via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Facebook says all calls made on Portal through WhatsApp are encrypted end-to-end, which may put some worrying minds at ease.
The 10-inch Portal ($179) and 8-inch Portal Mini ($129) are pretty much identical, with the exception of their size and price. The picture-frame style devices can be oriented vertically or horizontally, and sit neatly on a kitchen counter or on a living room shelf. You’ll have to manually rotate the devices though since they don’t have a swivel like the Portal Plus, which was released last year.
Then there's the Portal TV—an entirely new concept for Facebook. The $149 device sits atop or just below a TV, similar to a Microsoft Kinect. Like the Portal and Portal Mini, the Portal TV is also meant for video calling, but unlike the other two devices, the Portal TV brings wide-angle video chats to the largest screen in the house. To get started, simply plug Portal into the HDMI port of your TV and sign into your Facebook account to begin making calls. Portal’s AI-powered Smart Camera will pan and move as you roam around the house while Smart Sound will focus and enhance the voice that is speaking and minimize background noise.
But beyond the call features, Portal devices also let you access a variety of content. Using the Amazon Prime Video app on Portal, users can stream their favorite shows and movies through Amazon Originals and other apps like SHOWTIME, CBS All Access, Starz, Pluto TV, Red Bull TV, Neverthink, and more coming soon. Or, they can enjoy music from Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio and iHeartRadio Family.
The Portal and Portal Mini can also be used to display pictures and play videos much like a digital photo frame. Users can also enjoy the Story Time feature, which adds animation, music, and AR effects to many award-winning children’s books. Even when family and friends are far away, they can still enjoy their favorite content together. With Watch Together on Portal, friends and family across the world can watch shows together while simultaneously chatting on a video call.
“It’s not really about the hardware — it’s about people,” said Andrew Bosworth, vice president of AR/VR at Facebook. “With our mission to connect people, that’s not a mission that stops at mobile phones. Mark [Zuckerberg] has said, ‘We’re going to connect all the people that have mobile phones right now.’ But we have to think beyond phones.”
To drive home their privacy promise, Facebook also lets you disable the camera and microphone when the devices are not in use. A single tap or slide of a switch will trigger a red light, which means the camera and microphone are off. An integrated camera cover can also physically block the lens if you still aren’t convinced.
Additionally, Facebook is expanding Portal sales to other countries like the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. The new Portal devices are available for pre-order in the Us, Canada and Europe at portal.facebook.com. Shipping for the Portal and Portal Mini will bein on Oct. 15 while the Portal TV will hit the post office on Nov. 5.