Facebook has enjoyed mixed success with hardware. The rumours surrounding a Facebook phone were just that - rumours - and the company only got as far as launching an Android UI. On the upside, though, its acquisition of Oculus, in order to get a foothold in the VR market, has been pretty successful - if only because the Zuckopticon has kept its grubby mitts away.
The company has just launched Portal, a grey slab-like device for video chats. Rather than invent yet another voice activation ecosystem, FB has - perhaps wisely - opted to incorporate Amazon's ubiquitous Alexa into it. However, instead of asking for Alexa, on Facebook's device you say "Hey Portal" which just feels... well, you try saying it without feeling embarrassed.
Apparently Portal was to be launched at Facebook's annual conference, F8, but it wanted to let the heat from the Cambridge Analytica scandal die down first. Perhaps that's why, on the product website, FB dedicates a section to privacy, including "Facebook doesn't listen to, view or keep the contents of your Portal video calls." Well, that's all right then.
When not used for video calling, a further feature is that Portal can display photos from your Facebook feed. So, if you still have any feed photos of you puking in Magaluf while your best mate Ben was fucking a lamp post, now might be the time to edit your collection down a little.
Here's a review from Engadget. Admittedly, the video features, and picture quality are impressive.
Portal retails for $199 in the US. Most commentators to date have questioned Facebook's reasons for launching the device, given its multiple controversies over the past year, and it's hard to argue with that. Maybe a better strategy would have been for Amazon to launch an Echo device with Facebook integration, rather than the other way around.