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"Both models are created to help you feel closer to the important people in your life and make video chats feel less like a call, and more like you're actually in the same room", Facebook said in a blog post.

Called Portal and Portal+, the two devices are geared towards video calling and feature A.I. technology that can automatically follow a person as they move throughout a room and remove unwanted background noise during a call.

They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to USA customers in early November.

Aside from acting as a smart speaker around the house and competing against similar products like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple's HomePod, the Portal will have an extra trick up its sleeve.

In a Monday blog post, Facebook noted that it " doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls".

Additional features are available during calls, including joint listening on Spotify.

"Facebook is a little bit late to the market for smart speakers", said Tom Morrod, a research director for consumer electronics and telecoms at IHS Markit.

Portal lets users place Facebook's augmented reality camera effects, like those found in Instagram, over their faces during video calls. Rival smart speakers with screens lack a video-chatting app that is as popular. Thanks to Alexa from Amazon, you can initiate video calls simply by using your voice, plus a suite of AI tech makes your experience more rich.

Arriving in the U.S. in November, Facebook Portal is a $199 (£152) 10-inch screen, with two speakers and a high-quality webcam attached, which the company hopes users will put in their living rooms and kitchens and use to launch video chats with friends and loved ones. It looks a lot like the original Amazon Echo Show, and even comes in an optional black color scheme.

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The launch of the product comes at a tricky time for Facebook.

But didn't Facebook just get hacked? Facebook is about connecting people, after all. If you don't want to use Alexa, either, you can flick a switch that disables the camera and microphone altogether.

Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers.

Users can conference with any Messenger user.

But what's really interesting about the Portal is that Facebook doesn't have its own voice assistant ready for heavy lifting.

The standard Portal smart speaker features a 10.1-inch 720p display with 10W speakers, and is priced at $199.

Both devices feature "Hey Portal" voice recognition and have tight integration with Facebook services. A handful of animated e-books such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" will be included at launch for interactive story time. Or at least that's what Facebook says.

Facebook tried to make smartphones with HTC a few years ago, but that project wasn't fruitful. Only users aged 21 or younger could sign up for it. Sadly neither of them are going to be available outside the USA for the immediate future. However, it was quietly dropped after Facebook admitted that a majority of people weren't using it.

In the intervening six months, Facebook has also acknowledged the largest data breach in its history, admitting to regulators that more than 50m accounts were compromised due to a bug that it discovered and fixed in September.


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