Facebook is working on an updated version of its Portal video-calling smart displays and should have them ready for later this year.
The news comes courtesy of Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of AR/VR. Speaking about the Portal on Monday, June 10, at the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, the executive said: “We have a lot more that we’re going to unveil later in this fall, new form factors that we’re going to be shipping.”
Facebook’s Alexa-enabled smart displays launched in November 2018. The line-up includes the Portal featuring a 10-inch display and the Portal+ boasting a larger 15.6-inch display.
In comments reported by CNBC, Bosworth said Facebook wants to refresh the Portal devices because “we think there’s a whole new generation of hardware coming out,” adding, “Hardware is coming to the home, and we want to make sure that human connection, connection between two people, is a first-party experience on that hardware.”
Bosworth declined to offer any details about the revamped designs, or reveal anything about any new features that they might include. Pricing was also missing from the conversation.
It has been suggested that Facebook could do away with the tablet portion of the device altogether and instead launch a camera that fits atop a TV and uses the screen for video calling. News that Facebook was working on such a device — code-named Project Ripley — first surfaced last fall.
Of course, it could be that the camera launches separately to the updated Portal devices, with the former including additional features that put it up against Amazon’s Fire TV, the Roku, and Google’s Chromecast, and the latter retaining the tablet to continue as a smart display to compete with Amazon’s Echo Show and similar devices. But with the social networking giant facing ongoing criticism over the way it handles user privacy, some customers may still be reluctant to stick a Facebook camera and microphone in their home.
The Portal devices received mostly lukewarm reviews when they hit the market last year. Digital Trends mustered two-and-a-half stars out of a possible five in its in-depth review of the Portal+, criticizing it for its confusing and clunky voice-control experience and, at $349, expensive price tag, though at the time of writing both Best Buy and Amazon are selling it for $280. However, it won praise for its fun video-calling effects and impressive 140-degree field of view. Here’s hoping to a much-improved sequel.