A new patent application seems to offer a first look at Facebook’s rumoured smart speaker.
Reports of a Facebook smart speaker first surfaced in July 2017, stating that the social network giant has been working on a $499 USD device called ‘Portal’ that offers video chat and other social features, as well as a voice assistant.
In February 2018, new reports suggested that Facebook is actually working on two smart speakers featuring 15-inch touchscreens, codenamed ‘Fiona’ and ‘Aloha.’
The Fiona speaker is expected to be the less expensive model of the two, offering standard smart speaker functionality.
The Aloha speaker, however, is reportedly what Facebook calls the Portal internally and is expected to offer more features than Fiona, including facial recognition and additional social networking functionality.
Some sort of music integration is also expected in the Portal, given the company’s recent partnerships with Universal Music and Sony to allow users to post licensed music on Facebook.
That said, the patent sketches don’t appear to reflect most of these features, outside of the basic speaker holes for sound.
The application was filed December 29th, 2016 and contains no information on what the internals or capabilities of the device may be.
Furthermore, it’s still unclear when we may get a formal unveiling of these devices. While initial reports indicated these speakers would launch in July, Bloomberg stated at the end of March that Facebook has pushed back their release. They were originally expected to be announced at Facebook’s annual F8 conference in May, but that too is reportedly no longer going to happen.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook instead aims to focus on responding to the ongoing Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal it’s embroiled in. With over 87 million users around the world affected by the data breach, Facebook is busy dealing with the intense scrutiny it is now facing.
Most recently, company co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before U.S. Congress, going over how Facebook plans to handle privacy going forward.