Facebook’s rumored Echo Show competitor will be called Portal and cost $499

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

Facebook is planning to launch its rumored home video chat product, the one with a screen that appears similar to Amazon’s Echo Show, later this year, according to a report from online news network Cheddar. The product will be called Portal, the report says, and it will be the first finished hardware product from Facebook’s secretive Building 8 lab, which is an internal skunkworks division similar to Alphabet’s X that last year publicly announced its plans to develop brain-computer interfaces. The announcement of Portal is planned for early May, which would coincide with Facebook’s F8 developer conference. News of the device first leaked back in July in a report from Digitimes.

According to Cheddar, Facebook plans to sell the device for $499 and market it as a way for friends and family to video chat from a communal hub, just like how Amazon has positioned its Echo Show device as a fixture for the home kitchen. Portal would mark Facebook’s first foray into consumer hardware, following the company’s ill-fated partnership with HTC back in 2013. That partnership resulted in the “Facebook phone,” which was a subpar Android-based smartphone that failed to take off and acted as sour punctuation mark to Facebook’s attempt to break into consumer electronics.

Now, with Amazon and Google taking a more serious approach to hardware, Facebook appears to want in on the market just as smart speakers and other home devices are fast becoming avenues to get artificial intelligence in the home. It’s unclear that Facebook would be more warmly welcomed in users’ homes than Amazon or Google, both of which are vastly more trustworthy in the eyes of US consumers, according to a joint study The Verge conducted with Retical Research in October of last year. Still, Cheddar reports that Portal will act as the first of many Facebook products for the home, and that it will make use of the company’s sophisticated computer vision capabilities to identify people through the device’s camera and pair them with Facebook accounts.

Comments

Sounds like something no one will want and no one will buy.

For that price, why not just buy an iPad + kickstand?! I know it doesn’t have the speaker and far field microphone like that of a smart-home-assistant, but IMO an iPad would offer far more value overall.

500 dollars? May as well name it Dead.

Will go great with my HTC First.

I fail to understand why anyone would want a home station based video chat product when mobile solutions have been a thing for years. And even then, not many people seem to use them. Anecdotally, no one I know uses FaceTime. Also who would trust Facebook with a camera in their home? Certainly nobody who frequents sites such as The Verge.

I kind of agree. I mean, the one use we have for FaceTime is when my wife or I are travelling and we call with the family for a few minutes to say goodnight or whatever. It’s nice, and certainly makes traveling easier, especially long trips. But $500 for another appliance that only does one thing? No. Besides, FaceTime is already better as I can hand my phone from one kid to the next, and they can take it and show mom something in the other room or whatever. I don’t see how a fixed video appliance makes that experience better. I seems worse.

FB is just late to the game and they are witnessing huge AI assistant adoption where Amazon and Google are reaping the rewards (free data for AI training, etc).
So I see it as a desperate "me too" product that will be DOA just as FB phone.

Do you not have a family?

I mean, I don’t use video chat every day (although I see plenty of people driving around doing it somehow?!!!?) however it is invaluable as a way to keep in touch with my parents, grandparents, etc. and has become even more important as we had our first child since we are damn sure not getting on a 5 hour plane flight with that guy any time soon.

Additionally, a device like this (not this device, because $500 is nuts and I hate FB) or the Echo Show or the new Google Show devices could be very nice for my wife’s grandmother who is 95, living alone in a nursing home, and completely computer illiterate. Trying to talk her through launching Skype is a literal nightmare made even worse any time there is a technical issue…and there’s ALWAYS a technical issue. I’ve been thinking that since my wife and I started using Duo that one of these new Google devices would be a great gift for her so that we can easily call her and she can answer with a single button.

YMMV, and I wouldn’t ever put one of these devices in a private area, but they definitely have a use case.

Facebook’s secretive Building 8 lab, which is an internal skunkworks division

Isn’t a secret lab supposed to come up with original ideas that aren’t already in production?
Pretty sure 2 companies beat them to market.
Sort of like Stories was a rip from another social network…

Might as well call it Building Late.

Does it come with a $350 Visa gift card?

If it came with two of those gift cards…

Seriously, who would want a Facebook-powered camera in their house? Facebook: the company renowned for privacy, security and trust.

Yikes you would have to be Facebook die hard to want a dedicated Facebook device. The thing would probably collect all the data that has to do with you and your home. When you turn the lights on and off, what time you go to sleep, when you eat.

You say aloud "I want some Chinese food". Next thing you know the Chinese restaurant around the corner shows up as an ad on your feed.

You have a friend over and talk about relationships and next thing you know you see an ad for OkCupid or Tinder. Shits creepy.

$300 too expensive! I have a $50 Echo Dot and it works fine. Anything screen related I use my phone or TV.

Facebook is dead.

so they can take photos of us without us knowing? we all know facebook wants more photos of us

$500 is absolute madness. That is all.

So the guy who puts a post it not over his laptop camera wants to sell people a camera and microphone for the home… And they want you to pay for that ? I think I will be giving this a miss

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