As you probably know by today, Facebook announced Portal yesterday, a smart display for video calls with Alexa integrated.
There are tons of articles on the web related to the announcement summing up three fundamentals: the privacy scandals the company has been surrounded this year, why choosing Alexa was a smart decision at this point and the focus on visual as oppose to another smart speaker. I’ll leave links at this episode notes. Go and check them out if you haven’t.
You might think, what is she going to say that hasn’t been said by the other stories. Hear me out, I have something to add to the conversation, pun intended.
I think this is also another shot at Snapchat. The company has been relentless in their competition with Snapchat (Instagram stories, Facebook stories and now Instagram name tag) and this is no exception. Portal smart display landing page first feature listed is Smart camera and sound followed by private by design. Sound familiar from Snapchat camera first mantra, right? Let’s continue.
With music, animation and augmented reality effects, Portal lets you get into stories like never before.
Portal is adding VR lenses to the calls, directed to a more leisure focused model that Facebook knows very well, which can also give them a differentiator point among the competitors. Targeting an audience that’s already used to lenses, that use them on a daily basis, combined with voice activation provided by the very familiar (homie) Alexa is the recipe for snapping (again, pun intended) those young users into the giant blue platform.
One detail that also deserves attention:
For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are.
I talked in the episode about the compression algorithms the Amazon Alexa team is working and the effects it might have for the voice activated internet of thing feature, and this quote, proves that Facebook is very aware of the users reaction to the privacy scandals, what users think and is alerting them: it runs local, does not call Facebook servers. Maybe Facebook is the first company to provide a truly offline smart assistant experience. Wait, it has Alexa built-in, never mind.
As I alway say, whether this strategy is going to play out or not, only time will tell. Truth is, Facebook wants in in the smart speaker race and in the home. And they want it now, as much they couldn’t wait any longer. I would expect that the patent Facebook filled in 2016 for conversational payments (Processing payment transactions using artificial intelligence messaging services), plus all the social network expertise will come together with Portal and Portal+ for a product that might change the course of the smart display race.
Let me know what you think in the comments of this post, on Twitter replying to @voicefirstlabs or on Instagram @voicefirstweekly. My name is Mari, I’m your host, stop scrolling down now and go and share this, like and engage. You know why? Because you love it and I love it. Best of the Tuesdays for all of you. I’ll be back tomorrow!
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