Facebook makes video tech push with Portal

Facebook Portal The Portal will integrate with Facebook Messenger for video chatting. Image credit: Facebook

Social network Facebook has introduced a new series of video communication devices amid growing scrutiny over privacy and data concerns.

Facebook’s Portal and Portal+ are now available for preorder and aim to make video chatting more streamlined with the use of artificial intelligence, similarly to how Amazon’s Alexa has changed the voice technology industry. However, the product launch comes on the heels of Facebook’s admittance that hackers accessed the names and contact details for about 30 million users.

“Video is where the focus should be, both pre-recorded and live,” said Michael Price, senior director of social media at iProspect. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think the end game with Facebook Portal is further data.

“I think the long-term vision is for Facebook Portal to be Facebook’s entry into redefining home entertainment and live interaction on a larger screen,” he said. “The thing to remember about Facebook is that its mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ 

“Facebook Portal checks that box perfectly, by bringing family and friends into each other’s living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.”

Smart displays
With the Portal suite, Facebook is competing with technology titans Amazon and Google and their own smart displays. All of their offerings are voice-activated, with the Portal and Amazon Echo Show integrating with Alexa and Google Home Hub using Google Voice Assistant.

While luxury brands from St. Regis to Moët Hennessy are already using Alexa’s voice technology and search in various capacities, what sets apart the Portal is its video capabilities and integration with Facebook Messenger.

“Amazon needs cross-channel adoption and Facebook needs voice assistance capabilities,” Mr. Price said. “Regarding impact, I think Facebook’s roots in AI and AR are a big leap forward that will push the Amazon Echo to evolve its capabilities as well.”

Facebok post announcing Portal

Using AI, the Portal can follow speakers and zoom in and out during video chats without users having to worry about framing themselves. Another hands-free feature, dubbed Smart Sound, will reduce background noise for better audio quality.

If successful, the Portal will also have a large impact on Facebook Watch and live video.

As Facebook has struggled over the past few years to nail down a consistent video strategy, Facebook Watch may be the latest one of the company’s video endeavors to boost luxury brands’ social presence (see story).

“Fourteen years ago, social media almost exclusively involved the exchange of text, then it evolved to images, then video and now live video,” Mr. Price said. “The only thing missing is a larger screen empowered by interactivity and user-generated content.

“The user-generated content is the key, as Facebook Portal will give advertisers yet another ‘placement’ to reach consumers, as well as another place for content creators to monetize their content,” he said.