Facebook may be planning to release its own smart home device, after all – and it may come equipped with a camera that can recognise different people, and even track your movements around the room.
While reports of Facebook’s upcoming smart device have been mounting all year, it briefly appeared the plan was put on hold amid privacy concerns in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
But now, a new report claims the firm will launch its ‘Portal’ video chat device as soon as next week.
The claims come just weeks after it was revealed that code in Facebook’s apps detail a prototype interface for speech recognition technology dubbed ‘Aloha’ that could be used in its voice-activated speaker.
According to a new report from Cheddar, Facebook will reveal its long-rumored Portal device next week.
It’s thought the smart speaker will be geared toward video chatting, with a wide-angle video camera that relies on facial recognition to tag different users and follow them around.
But, it will also come with a shutter to block out the camera for those concerned about privacy when it’s not in use.
This feature, however, was only put in place after the worldwide backlash from Cambridge Analytica.
It’s suspected that Portal will be Alexa-enabled.
Just last month, it was revealed that the firm may be working on ‘Aloha’ voice recognition technology for its own device.
Developer and tipster Jane Manchun Wong spotted code for the system in Facebook and Messenger apps.
The code describes a product called ‘Aloha Voice Testing,’ where users speech is translated into text in a message thread, according to TechCrunch, which first reported the move.
The feature would work in the core Facebook app, the Messenger app and also ‘external WiFi or Bluetooth devices,’ such as a speaker.
Wong also said she discovered what appears to be the Aloha logo in the code, which is a graphic of a volcano.
Another part of the code notes ‘your mobile device is now connected to Portal,’ TechCrunch said.
Speculation has been building for several months that Facebook is creating a pair of smart speakers, one of which will be named Portal.
Reports have said that the other speaker would be named Fiona and both would have touchscreens and advanced features like facial recognition.
Facebook is believed to have been interested in creating some kind of smart speaker as far back as December 2016, based on various patents it has filed.
The firm filed a patent in April for a product called ‘Electronic Device’ that’s a seemingly small, square device with holes on the top panel that could be where audio comes out of.
Another view of the device appears to show buttons on a flat surface that could perhaps be a screen of some kind.
The device is also expected to be able to respond to voice commands and will include social media functions – a detail that’s somewhat corroborated by Wong’s view of the Aloha Voice Testing screen.
Portal is also expected to feature a laptop-sized touchscreen and smart camera technology.
The devices have been speculated to cost an upwards of $499 (£370), making them much pricier than similar products currently on the market, such as Amazon’s $39 (£27) Echo Dot.
Previous reports indicated that the devices would have hit the shelves this summer.
But Facebook decided in March to halt production of the devices as it became embroiled in a massive user data scandal.
It was recently revealed that data from 87 million Facebook users, mostly based in the US, was harvested from the platform without their knowledge.
Trump-affiliated research firm Cambridge Analytica scraped users’ data unknowingly from third-party apps on the platform and used it to try to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The scandal has led many to zero in on what kinds of data Facebook collects on its users.