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Facebook Launches Portal Smart Speakers With Video Calling

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Facebook Inc. (FB) on Monday launched a pair of smart-speakers that enable video calling on the company's Messenger service. The devices, which feature cameras and microphones, are intended to challenge Amazon and Google's dominance in the smart-speaker market.

"Today, we're excited to announce Portal and Portal+, two new video communication devices for the home that dramatically change the way we keep in touch. Thanks to AI technology, Portal makes video calling easier and more like hanging out, while a widescreen display lets you enjoy every moment together," Facebook said.

The Portal features a 10-inch, 1280 x 800 display, while the Portal+ has 15-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 display. The devices' Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology are powered by Artificial Intelligence, or AI.

Both the devices are now available for pre-order in the U.S. - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy. The devices will begin shipping to customers in November.

The Portal is available for $199, while the Portal+ is priced at $349. A bundle of two Portal devices will be priced at $298.

In addition to video calls, the Portal devices can stream music and video. Facebook said it has partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora and iHeartRadio, Facebook Watch, Food Network and Newsy.

Using the devices, users can call their Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they do not have Portal. Calls can be made to and from Messenger-enabled smartphones and tablets. Portal supports group calls of up to seven people at the same time.

Portal also offers hands-free voice control. To start a video call, users can say "Hey Portal" followed by the name of the person they would like to call.

Portal comes equipped with Amazon Alexa, enabling users to ask for sports scores, check the weather, control smart home devices or order groceries.

The devices also feature privacy and security tools. The camera and microphone can be disabled with a single tap. The camera's lens can be blocked at any time, as the devices come with a camera cover.

Facebook said that for added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, and not on Facebook servers.

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