Facebook is marketing the device, called Portal, as a way for its more than 2 billion users to chat with one another without having to fuss with positioning and other controls.
But Facebook understands that some users might be concerned about allowing a device that's always listening into their homes, so it has provided a number of privacy protection features. It's supposed to minimize background noise and enhance the speaker's voice during video chats, while the company's Smart Camera technology pans and zooms to keep you in-frame while you video chat.
Portal lets users place Facebook's augmented reality camera effects, like those found in Instagram, over their faces during video calls.
Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. The AI used in the Smart Camera and Smart Sounds technology runs locally on Portal devices rather than on Facebook servers, and only commands stated after "Hey Portal" are sent to Facebook's servers.
Security is a sensitive issue for Facebook which had 50 million of its user accounts breached by hackers at the end of last month in the latest privacy embarrassment. In fact, the Portal has a partnership with Amazon and has Alexa's voice and intelligence built in to take commands, play music, set timers and answer questions. The devices don't have facial recognition and do not identify who is using the device as well.More news: Prominent Saudi Arabian Journalist Killed at Saudi Consulate, Friend Says
CNBC reports that shortly after Facebook's latest user data leak, the company wants consumers to install a Facebook-manufactured camera into their homes. But, perhaps still adhering to the "Move fast and break things" mantra it's famous for, the social media giant has done just that and launched the Portal ($199) and Portal+ ($349) today.
You can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap. You get $100 off if you buy any two devices, and they'll ship at some point in November.
While the contents of Portal video calls are encrypted, Facebook does collect call logs from the device.
"It´s been a big shift for the company", Facebook´s vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth told AFP before the launch of "Portal". The inclusion of Amazon's software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices.
It does seem theoretically possible to turn the smaller Portal on its side to achieve a portrait mode view, but until we get some hands-on time with the device we don't know if that's an available option. There's also a news service called Newsy that will help you stay up to date.
The social networking giant says: "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there".
Earlier this year, Facebook had to acknowledge that as many as 87 million people may have had their data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that worked for the Trump campaign and aimed to use the data to influence elections. Both display photos and notifications from Facebook and videos from Food Network, but offer few other applications.