Facebook may be getting into the hardware business. According to a report from Cheddar, the social media giant is looking to release a smart home device called the “Portal” that allows users to video chat with one another.
Facebook is said to be positioning the Portal not as a direct Amazon Echo competitor, but rather as a video phone that supports voice commands and social features. The Portal looks to have a wide-angle lens that can recognize individual faces and associate them with their respective Facebook accounts.
Facebook also intends to add support for platforms like Spotify and Netflix. It’s worth noting that the company recently signed licensing deals with Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV, so it’s possible that these publishers’ music could appear on the Portal.
The Portal is rumoured to cost $499 USD, which would make it significantly more expensive than existing devices like the $230 Echo Show or the recently-revealed Lenovo Smart Display, which starts at $199.
However, Cheddar says that Facebook may drop the price to drive consumer adoption. To that end, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly told employees that he isn’t concerned with the device making a profit. Instead, Zuckerberg is said to want to “encourage phone-like usage among owners.”
This would align with the new vision that Zuckerberg set for Facebook in June, saying he wants the company to “bring the world closer together.”
Cheddar says Facebook is planning to officially unveil the Portal in its annual F8 developer conference in May, with shipments to begin in the latter half of 2018.
While the Portal would mark Facebook’s first hardware endeavour, the company does own the Oculus premium virtual reality technology. Earlier this week, the company took to the stage at CES to reveal that its next VR headset, the standalone Oculus Go, will be manufactured by Xiaomi.
In other Facebook news, the company announced earlier this week that its M digital assistant will end later this month.