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But Facebook says it has crafted its Portal gadgets, launched this week, to be as un-creepy as possible. The Portal Plus, which features a 15.6-inch 1080p screen and two louder speakers with a subwoofer, costs $349. As you might expect, its main goal is to connect you with other Facebook users via Messenger; say "Hey Portal" to start a video call.

But Facebook understands that some users might be concerned about allowing a device that's always listening into their homes, so it has provided a number of privacy protection features. If you pre-order both, you will receive a $100 discount.

Users can make voice calls to anyone in the world or chat with family and friends on an HD video call. One of the top features of the Portal and Portal+ is their smart camera - or may be some will find it creepy - that will follow people around in a room while they are on a video call.

The idea that users might be creeped out by such a device is not lost on Facebook, which claims that Portal is "private by design".

The Portal uses an array of four far-field microphones that records your conversations picks up your voice commands and a 12MP wide-angle camera that watches you sleep lets you make video calls.

You will also be able to set a passcode to better lock down the system, or turn on Home and Away mode so Portal knows to send Messenger calls to your phone when you're out of the house. The devices don't have facial recognition and do not identify who is using the device as well.

Portal also comes with Amazon Alexa built in.

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The social network does not intend to stop with Portal, promising to "invest very heavily, not just hardware through Oculus but also through Facebook", Bosworth said. You can ask the device questions by using the voice command, 'Hey Portal'.

Facebook servers are only contacted when you say "Hey Portal".

But what's really interesting about the Portal is that Facebook doesn't have its own voice assistant ready for heavy lifting. In addition, a number of Portal's features are opt-in, and there is no video recording feature.

The device includes what Facebook calls Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology, which uses artificial intelligence to automatically pan and zoom the camera to keep everyone speaking in view, while Smart Sound minimises background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is speaking to improve call quality.

The Portal also sports Bluetooth, so it can play music when paired to a nearby device, but critically, like the Echo Show, it lacks official support for YouTube and other major streaming services such as Netflix.

Perhaps more importantly, Facebook has a history of misleading users on what it's doing with their data. Both the devices will use a 12-megapixel camera to enable video calls. If you're looking for a larger screen, the Portal+ is 15 inches wide, with both devices acting as a digital photo frame, displaying images from your Facebook feed when they are not being used to make calls. Facebook said it doesn't "listen to, view, or keep the contents of" Portal video calls and that all video calls are encrypted as well. Facebook partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, and Newsy - and it promised to add more soon.


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