Facebook has recently unveiled a glorified video chat peripheral called the Portal and the timing of it could not be worse. Off the back of a major security breach and a year full of privacy concerns, the Portal comes off as a way of blindsiding people from their handle over private data. But are the features enough to offset the risks of having a sentient Facebook camera peering into your home?
I use the word sentient because the Portal is being dubbed as an AI video calling device. All you need to do to start a call is say “Hey Portal”, obviously. The device isn't however just limited to voice recognition but it also comes packed with Amazon's voice interface, Alexa which will give users the ability to shop or control household appliances.
The Portal comes in two sizes, a 10-inch 720p display which retails at $199 and a 15-inch 1080p display will go for $349. Facebook's pitch with the Portal is optimized to provide the smoothest video calling experience out there. The software around the front camera has been worked on extensively so that it can encompass 140 degree field of view or, fit the whole family and the beige couches into the frame.
Now, the Portal in actuality, is a very solid device. But the issue comes up on two fronts. One, are the shambles that Facebook's reputation with private data is in and the other is that it's still just a glorified webcam. Mix the two together and you are almost giving away the key to your house to Russian spies. While it's easy to digress my last statement, it is fact that Facebook is an easily breach-able platform and so, despite the Portal having multiple safety lids for its camera and microphone, despite the fact that the built in AI runs locally on individual devices and that calls are encrypted, are still not worth the bargain of actually having a hacked webcam with a full field of view of your living room. The device looks solid however the company's reputation does not.