Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Facebook 'Portal' to Compete With Echo Show

Facebook 'Portal' to Compete With Echo Show

Its product, digital outlet Cheddar reports, a voice-enabled video chat device named Portal, will directly compete with Amazon's Echo product line to enter consumer homes.

Like Amazon's screen-equipped Echo Show, Facebook's Portal is created to work indoors and be controlled through voice commands. Allegedly called Portal, the device will feature a screen and speaker and be built around an artificial intelligence interface much like Amazon's offering and even some new installments from other OEMs.

The device is created to work in the home and represents Facebook's first serious foray into selling consumer hardware, people familiar with the matter said. Portal is expected to be unveiled during the company's annual developer conference in May and could ship during the second half of this year.

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Rumors about Portal come after Facebook last month started using facial-recognition technology to notify users when someone uploads their image without tagging them. The device may also play nice with streaming services like Spotify and Netflix so people can use it to play music, TV shows, and movies. So essentially, this will be a first step in an evolution Facebook wishes to dictate. A Facebook spokesperson said in an email, "We are not commenting on these speculative reports".

The device could vie for space in people's kitchens and living rooms with similar gadgets from Google, Amazon and Apple, which all have voice-assisted speakers. Facebook ad exec Andrew Bowsworth was appointed to lead the company's hardware efforts last summer.

Reports about the video chat device came out previous year, but more details - like the name "Portal" - have now been revealed. Facebook could decide to lower the price when the device is first released in order to help it get some traction from consumers. (Amazon, by contrast, sells the Echo Show for $230.) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has told employees that he doesn't care if the device generates profit but rather wants it to change user behavior and encourage phone-like usage among owners. Facebook sells the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headgear.

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