Facebook has entered the hardware game with a new set of smart speakers that focus on social features and video chatting.
The social media giant unveiled the Portal and Portal Plus smart speakers on Monday, the first hardware devices released under the Facebook brand.
Right off the bat, the Portal devices appear to lean heavily communication via video chat. They’re equipped with webcams and microphones and will allow users to call other Portal devices, as well as anyone with the Facebook or Facebook Messenger app.
To help the device stand out, Facebook appears to be simplifying the video chat format. Once you start a call, the Portal will automatically track users in a room with its wide-angle camera to keep them in frame. If a single user is a room, it’ll zoom in on their face.
As you’d expect from a social media platform, you can overlay masks and other effects onto the video chat.
The smaller Portal sports a 10-inch 720p display and looks like Facebook’s answer to the Amazon Echo Show. The larger Portal Plus has a unique form factor with a speaker-equipped stand and a 15.6-inch 1080p display.
As well as video chatting, the Portal devices will allow a set of other standard smart speaker capabilities. You can stream music via Spotify or Pandora or watch videos from Facebook.
Both devices are equipped with Amazon Alexa, with most of the capabilities you’d expect from the digital assistant. There are indications that Facebook could add other virtual assistants down the line, including Google Assistant.
But, interestingly, you can’t browse Facebook on the Facebook Portal devices. There’s also a relative lack of third-party apps like YouTube, WeChat or web browsers.
Earlier this year, Facebook reportedly delayed the launch of the Portal devices to avoid the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. But, of course, Facebook is currently in the midst of another major data breach controversy.
Because of that, there are some obvious privacy concerns about having a first-party Facebook device with a speaker and microphone in your home — though Facebook is including a small camera cover and a button that can disable the microphone.
The Portal devices will launch in the U.S. in November. The smaller Portal will retail for $199, while the Portal Plus will be priced at $349.