Quite a bit has happened with Facebook over the past week. From upcoming devices and features to app updates, there’s a lot to catch up on!
A New Device?
Facebook may be releasing a home voice-activated device, joining the likes of Amazon and Google in the world of voice controlled products. This news comes from Cheddar, a livestreaming network that covers subjects like finance and technology.
According to Cheddar, Facebook’s video chat device will be called “Portal,” and it will be focused on social connection, including more features than just video chatting. It will also use a wide-angle lens and incorporate its facial recognition technology so it can connect people it sees to their Facebook accounts. (You might recall Facebook’s facial recognition tech was recently in the news because of its use in a new tagging feature.)
This focus does make Facebook’s potential new device sound a little different from devices like the typical smart device which functions as a personal assistant. With “Portal,” there will be a straightforward purpose—social engagement—though there will also be access to things like Spotify and Netflix.
Cheddar notes that the current plan is to officially announce “Portal” in May, as well as to sell it for $499. This is a pretty hefty price tag for a voice-controlled device, but of course, we’ll have to wait a while to get confirmation of the device and more details. At this point, not much is really known about its full features.
Facebook also released Messenger Kids for more devices this week. TechCrunch reports that Facebook’s messaging app is now available for Fire tablets. The app was previously available for iOS.
Messenger Kids is the child-safe version of Messenger. Children can use it to send messages and make video calls. However, they can only contact people approved by a parent, and kids aren’t able to hide messages from their parents, which makes it easier for parents to keep watch on their communication.
Facebook is also testing a new feature that lets users check in on credible local news. The section is called ‘Today In,’ and it is made up of local topics and content, according to Recode. It’s currently being tested in 6 cities, but eventually they hope to bring it to more cities and let users keep up with other cities they don’t currently live in.
The content will include local topics and news, all coming together through machine-learning software. The news content will only include articles from places their News Partnerships team has verified. This is so that users can feel more confident in the credibility of what they’re seeing.
It’s unclear when this feature might come to other cities. Until then, we can wait and see how it goes over in the current test cities.