Facebook Working On Video Chat Device

Adrian Noel August 02, 2017
Facebook Working On Video Chat Device

Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home, the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab.

Facebook’s reported dedicated video chat device, which is similar to the Amazon Echo Show, will include a notebook-sized display. It’s intended to make video chat participants separated geographically feel like they’re together in the same space.

The product, which could be announced next spring, includes a large touchscreen, wide-angle camera, microphones, and speakers, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people’s homes.

The device would be the first piece of hardware developed by Facebook’s Building 8, its research and development arm.

The division has been run by Regina Dugan, the former head of the Pentagon’s DARPA research facility, and Google’s advanced research team, since last year.

Speaking at the most recent F8 conference in April, Dugan said the goal was to “create and ship new, category-defining consumer products that are social first.” She spoke about how technology has made it easier to connect but also has kept people to their phones so that they don’t interact with the physical world as much.

“I’m optimistic that technology can help, that new hardware platforms can chip away at false choices,” Dugan said, explaining how her relationship with her mother was improved through daily phone calls on her way to a coffee shop. “If we fail it’s gonna suck.”

The social media giant is working on its second product, a standalone smart speaker that would compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Facebook is hiring Apple Inc. veterans to help it create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices.

Early plans call for the standalone speaker to sell in the low $100 range, challenging the competition, while the technologically more complex video chat device would cost a few hundred dollars, one of the people said.

Because the speaker concept has already been popularized, two of the people said, Facebook could abandon it and prioritize the video chat device instead.

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Adrian Noel


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