Facebook is set to enter the consumer hardware business in a big way with a voice-enabled home device named “Portal”, according to financial news network Cheddar.
The move will mark the first serious step for the company in jumping into the increasingly crowded, voice-assisted home device market that features names such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home and Apple’s HomePod.
But rather than just working as a virtual smart assistant, Portal will focus on communication and video calls, acting more like a video phone for families and friends to stay connected through video chatting and other social features, according to the report.
The device will be formally announced in early May at Facebook’s annual developer conference and is expected to arrive in the market in the second half of 2018.
It would be sold through Facebook’s pop-up stores and online channel.
The device will be priced at US$499, which will make it more expensive than comparable gadgets such as Amazon’s Echo Show, which costs about US$230.
The price, however, is not final, and it is possible that it will be scaled down to encourage consumer adoption, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg cares less about profits and has told employees that his goal is to change user behavior and encourage phone-like usage among owners, Cheddar reports.
Citing people familiar with Facebook’s plans, the report said the social media giant is believed to be adopting its facial recognition technology in the Portal home device, which features a wide-angle lens with a capability to recognize individual faces and associate them with their Facebook accounts.
The new device would also allow access to streaming services like Spotify and Netflix.
The Portal home device will be the first product from Building 8, Facebook’s experimental hardware lab, which aims to eventually sell a suite of consumer products that can compete with offerings from the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple, according to the report.
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