Facebook's camera-equipped smart home device Portal is nearing launch

Portal will apparently feature a "wide-angle video camera" which uses AI to recognise users / Pixabay

Facebook is ready to make its first foray into hardware outside of its Oculus VR headset, with reports circulating that its smart home device Portal will launch next week.

According to Cheddar, Portal will be similar to Amazon's Echo Show smart screen with the big selling point being the ability to easily start video chats with other Facebook users.

The social network has been testing the product for months, and apparently has already opened conversations with "major retailers" about it. The focus is on video calling and its touch screen panel, with a suggestion it may lean on integration with Amazon's Alexa for voice commands, music and so on.

Portal was originally due to be announced during Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in May, but was put on hold following the Cambridge Analytica data breach backlash and questions about Facebook's role in elections.

Cheddar reports that Portal will feature a "wide-angle video camera", which unlike Google or Amazon's smart devices will use AI to recognise people in frame and "follow them as they move throughout a room".

A privacy shutter - presumably more sophisticated than the one Mark Zuckerberg uses on his own webcam - has been developed in response to "worsening public trust in Facebook".

Despite a series of costly apology ads, Facebook users still have privacy concerns.

In the US alone, a recent study found that Facebook was the least-trusted brand for consumers when it came to handing over their personal data in exchange for relevant services.

Facebook said it didn't comment on "rumours or speculation" when asked about Portal.

Whispers the world's largest social network has been developing a smart speaker have been swirling since last year, when it patented a trademark for a “modular electromechanical device”.

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