Amid a decline in its user base and a falling stock price, the world’s largest social media giant Facebook Inc. (FB) is attempting to offer an innovative solution to keep users engaged. The company is expected to release its video chat device called Portal by next week, according to Cheddar, the news network that covers innovative products, technologies, and services. (See also, Users Spend Less Time on Facebook: Research.)
AI-Powered Home-Speaker with Screen
Like the Amazon Echo Show, Facebook’s home-speaker device will include the Alexa voice assistant from Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), and will also be equipped with a screen that will allow users to watch videos or have video chats with friends. Additionally, Portal is said to be powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and to have a wide-angle video camera that will allow for the automatic recognition of users. The camera is expected to follow users as they move across the room, allowing the other party to receive a real-time feed. To allay privacy concerns, Facebook is said to include a shutter to cover the lens camera.
The device will also support other infotainment features like playing music, watching videos, viewing cooking recipes, and getting news briefs. The device has been in the testing phase for long by the company employees at their homes. The screen and camera may offer it an edge over other existing smart speakers in the market. (For more, see Smart Speaker Market To More Than Double.)
Citing anonymous people familiar with the development, Cheddar reports that the device will be available in two screen sizes. The larger one is expected to be priced around $400, while the smaller one may cost $300.
While the Menlo Park, California-based company has been selling virtual reality (VR) headsets following its acquisition of Oculus, its success has remained limited. If the release of the Portal device goes through as expected, this will mark Facebook’s first foray into the home device market. (For more, see Facebook's Oculus Slashes Price of Its VR Headset Again.)
The initial plan was to launch the device during its annual F8 developer conference in May of this year. However, the launch was postponed as the company faced serious criticism from public and lawmakers and investigations around data breach scandals on its platform like the Cambridge Analytica and the Russian fake news campaigns that allegedly meddled in the U.S. elections.
The leading social media network is also struggling to retain its users who are either switching to other platforms or even deleting their Facebook accounts on security concerns. (See also, Facebook Losing Teen Users to Snapchat.)