Facebook announces Portal TV – a Video Chat Camera for your TV

In a quest to be very present in your life, and in your home, Facebook back in October 2018 announced a 10 inch tablet-like smart screen that allowed you to video call family and friends from anywhere in your home.

Though it demanded users to log in with Facebook, the unique thing was the ability to track you while you walk around making a video call, keep you in frame, and even zoom in on person speaking when there’s multiple people on the video call.

Well, despite privacy concerns, and many other worries about Facebook collecting personal information, the company is doubling down on their Portal line up with refreshed products, plus a new one that is like a webcam for your TV. The three new gadgets are:

  • Portal – a 10 inch HD display
  • Portal Mini – an 8 inch HD display
  • Portal TV – the webcam…

With the new lineup, users will be able to make calls on Messenger and WhatsApp. There’s support for Alexa Smart Assistant.

In terms of apps, there’s Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, CBS All Access, Starz, Pluto TV, Red Bull TV, and Neverthink for TV shows and movies. Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio are available for music streaming. Facebook says more apps are coming soon.

With the first generation Portals having bad sales, and poor reviews, Facebook is perhaps hoping the new gen refreshments work out better, and that perhaps the new Portal TV may become a big seller.

To assure anyone who would want to buy these devices on matters security and privacy, the company has ensured the following:

  • For all three devices, you can disable the camera and microphone with a tap or a switch. There’s a camera cover if you want to block the lens physically.
  • Facebook says Smart Camera the feature that tracks you, and Smart Sound which minimizes background noise will run locally on-device and not Facebook’s servers.
  • All WhatsApp calls will be encrypted end-to-end.
Facebook Camera Portal TV
Portal TV

Portal TV connects to your TV using the HDMI port. It should work with any TV that has the port, and not necessarily smart TVs. It comes with a remote control, and is gearing up to become sort of a set-top box that could replace other boxes should it get more apps in future.

The gadget has a 12.5MP 120-degree wide-angle camera and with the AI features, it will track you as you make video calls, as you walk around. It has 8 microphones to ensure it picks up audio well, and also includes a speaker.

If making call straight from your TV is something you want, then this could be a gadget for you. We are already seeing some smart TVs shipping with cameras, so perhaps this is the future of video chatting. Facebook envisions a future where you can video chat with friends and family as if they’re in the living room with you, as you watch together a video from Facebook Watch.

Though the gadgets aren’t available for the African market, should they ever be, I don’t think I would be comfortable with having them in my personal space. I think they’re cool tech, but I am very weary of the company that makes them.

I don’t know why I am comfortable with a Google Home, and not a Facebook gadget. I feel like I am cool with making calls from my phone. What are your thoughts?

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