Facebook's video chat smart speakers are set to launch in July

By Chris 28 February 2018, 2:2

Whether you want to call them smart displays or smart speakers with screens, the Echo Show/Echo Dot/Google smart display category might be seeing a big new entry this summer. The Zuck.

We first heard rumours that Facebook was working on a high end $499 smart speaker named Portal in August 2017, with reports that the focus would be video chat and social (obviously) with a "Siri-style" voice assistant on board too.

Now we're hearing from a report in Digitimes that two smart home devices, both with 15-inch touchscreens - laptop size - and codenamed Fiona and Aloha (i.e. the flagship Portal), will launch by July "at the latest". And while voice commands are mentioned, there might not be a full-blown Alexa equivalent here either, at least at launch.

Digitimes' sources also say there will be a forward-facing camera on the device, for the aforementioned video chat, that will also feature face recognition.

Facebook has apparently also been signing music licensing contracts with Sony and Universal Music indicating that it's moving into more Apple/Google/Amazon territory as its own ecosystem. And Portal - which would be the first major product from its Building 8 lab - is said to be the first of a series of video focused hardware that Facebook is developing.

This would be a huge test for Facebook. Sure it already owns the VR headset Oculus Rift but this will be its first chance to launch a "category defining" piece of technology that's "social first" - the ambition of the head of Building 8, Regina Dugan, who joined Facebook from Google.

That's especially as Amazon, Google and Apple have already made compelling reasons to add a new type of device to our homes - video chat is already a feature on the Echo Show and Google's smart displays like the upcoming JBL Link View and Lenovo Smart Display.

So will Facebook become a gadget maker as well as a social network? Stranger things have happened, Snap Inc is experimenting in smartglasses and who predicted five years ago that Amazon would build one of the most influential, iconic tech products of the past decade with the Echo? Not even Amazon.

Source: The Ambient

Facebook's video chat smart speakers are set to launch in July
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