Facebook Wants to Put a Camera in Your Living Room

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Facebook has new devices to help you video chat from your couch!

Smart speakers are popular these days but Facebook says they’re missing a key feature – the ability to video chat!

The company’s new line of gadgets called Portal look like picture frames but let you make video calls, too! There’s even a model that sits on top of your TV so you can video chat from the couch.

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I was invited to a special house in San Francisco fully outfitted with the new gadgets, which promise to usher in a new era of video calling.

The devices also let you play games, watch videos together, listen to music and even read interactive bedtime stories from across the miles.

But before any of Facebook’s futuristic visions come to life, people will have to get past the privacy concerns. All the devices come with physical switches that let you cover the camera lens and turn off the mics.

There are also cues to let you know when they’re off: like a red light and contrasting colors near the lenses.

I really enjoyed the Portal TV. This device sits on top of your TV and lets you video chat from the most comfortable seat in the house: your couch. It’s much more relaxing than trying to hold your phone out at arms length.

The person on the other end can use another Portal or the Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp on their phone.

Facebook built a bunch of AI smarts into the wide angle camera: it can follow you around, include the entire group or focus on just one person you pick.

I love the idea of video chatting on the TV, but these products require folks to put their Facebook privacy concerns aside. Still, with billions connected on their platform, the social network is on to something here.

The biggest downside I see is that Portal TV only offers a half-baked selection of streaming services. There’s no Netflix or HBO, which means you’ll have to install this device along with your typical set top streamer, like an Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. This setup can be complicated since you’ll have to switch inputs every time a video call comes in.

Portal Mini is $130, Portal is $180 and those ship on October 15. Portal TV, which is my pick, ships on November 5th and it costs $150. If you buy two devices, you get $50 off.

Want to hear more of my thoughts on the Portal devices? Listen to the Rich on Tech podcast! Search for it in your podcast app or just hit play below to listen.

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