philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Facebook Portal brings Alexa and Messenger video chats to one device

It keenly uses an AI-powered camera to pan, zoom and reframe the picture, allowing you move freely and naturally around.

Ultimately, no matter how good the Portal is, placing a device with a camera in your home made by a company that mishandled your data is a big ask.

And it seems Facebook is aware of this, because the Portal has a physical mute button on the top and an actual camera cap to cover the lens when you're not chatting.

When you're on a video call, you can add Snapchat-like effects that can turn you into a carrot-eating rabbit or Groucho Marx, among other things. It can also place a cat on your head -- my favorite.

One of the coolest features is Story Time: It has five interactive story books you can read, and Facebook is working with book publishers to add even more.

When you start a story book your screen becomes a mini-teleprompter displaying copy from the book. But as you read, the person on the other end sees drawings and animations. When I read a Three Little Pigs storybook, it added a Big Bad Wolf overlay to my face encouraging me to "act" out the role. The appeal of Story Time for families is immediately obvious and fun.

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