Facebook already plays a significant role in our everyday lives – arguably more significant than many feel totally comfortable with. Whether it’s through Facebook itself, Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp, chances are that you’re interacting with Facebook regularly, which is what makes the company so powerful and is also so concerning when it comes to potential data misuse.
Already Facebook is very much part of our daily lives which can make you shudder to think how much it actually is sewn into the fabric of our lives. Whether it’s directly or indirectly interacting with Facebook, you will most like have a connection with it through one of their other platforms such as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. However, while Facebook plays a prominent role in how we communicate digitally and we are heavily influenced by that, it’s going to become even more instrumental if you pardon the pun.
According to American based media company Cheddar, next month Facebook will announce it is going to Debut ‘Portal’ Video Chat Device with Amazon Alexa. This will enable users to ‘speak to Facebook’ within their homes, furthering The Social Network’s reaches. There are no official promo shots available as yet of the speakers, but the device is believed to look something like Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ smart home device, with a camera above a speaker and a video screen, which would sit on a surface in your home.
Furthermore, Portal has the scope to be integrated with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and enable users to play music, watch videos, see cooking recipes, and get the latest news. The integration with Alexa presents an interesting scenario because Portal was assumed to be a competitor for Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home devices, which are already seeing steady growth in the market place. This integration with Alexa, if the reports are true, suggests that’s not the case, and that Facebook may be able to collaborate further with Amazon to expand Portal’s usage – while also likely giving Amazon Facebook-connected capacity for their own devices to some degree.
Another interesting thing to note about the Portal is that it will likely be able to access outside on-demand entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify and stream them into your home entertainment devices. That could prove a breakthrough for Facebook’s own video aspirations. While having more video content available on Facebook, it will be seen as a positive step, where it really needs to be available is on your home TV, which is central to which our homes are effectively built around as a main primary entertainment source.
It is true to say that video content is rising on PCs and connected devices, the TV still reigns supreme. If Facebook were able provide a device which enables users to easily stream Facebook video content direct to their big screens, that could give its Watch platform and exclusive content a significant boost. But we have to be cautious here, in allowing Facebook to have even more control of what we consume in our own homes.
For starters, the Portal camera will have facial recognition ability but even more creepy to note it has been reported it will be able to follow individuals around the room’, tracing their movements. Such tracking would add more volume to Facebook’s data vaults, as will any task you perform via the device, the shows you watch, the music you listen to and the people you call etc. The use of the Portal en masse as a new adoption of new tech gives Facebook even more exposure into people’s behaviours, in our own homes no less, which could enable more accurate ad targeting (or re-targeting) but worst part is it could be open to abuse and used for less scrupulous means.
It’s probably why, according to Cheddar, Facebook has delayed its official release which was originally slated for May 2018, but among the uproar and fall out over the data privacy scandal, they chose to delay until now.
As a result what has been reported is that a ‘privacy shutter’ will cover the device’s camera when it’s not in use in order to give users reassurance that they are not being traced. Given the ongoing rumours that Facebook is listening to your private conversations and accessing your phone camera without your knowledge, this feature makes sense, – though you can be forgiven if you are still skeptical where there is still the potential via the Portal, when you start seeing Facebook ads for things you have only discussed at home but have never searched online for.
This maybe the biggest drawback for the Portal to be accepted into the mainstream. After the recent data privacy leaks and political scandals that followed, trust in Facebook is at an all-time low, which will no doubt have many potential customers seriously thinking twice, thrice or even more whether they want a Facebook-driven device in their home.
In its current form, there is nothing hugely compelling that would offset such concerns, though there are more than 33 million voice-first activated devices now in circulation and this market is projected to grow more in the future. Facebook is still willing to make that gamble to tap into that market now before sales of alternatives leave it so far behind the competition that it becomes difficult to catch up. Remember what happened to Nokia, Windows Phone.
If handled right, this could be the next new ‘thing’ in social media adoption, making digital platforms reach further with our devices into our own real world and everyday experiences. Naturally let’s not forget speech recognition and translation tools, which if they get it right and working, could provide significant breakthroughs and huge benefits through the Portal device. Similarly, around this time a Canadian company Thamlic is also reportedly close to launching potentially game-changing new smart glasses, which could layer digital objects over the real world. New Virtual Reality experience, something that various digital companies are looking to break into.
As these devices become more advanced and offer more compelling uses and a case for, invariably demand will increase which may overshadow any privacy concerns. The greatest trick these companies will do is to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, yet again…!
The Portal device will come in two versions priced at around $300 and $400.