Is Facebook getting into the smart speaker game? Two devices are tipped to launch this summer

Is Facebook getting into the smart speaker game? Two devices are tipped to launch this summer

One will have a 15-inch touch screen, camera and facial recognition, sources claim

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Facebook is entering the smart speaker market with a pair of devices to rival the Amazon Echo and Google Home later this year, reports from the social network's supply chain have claimed.

Squaring up against Amazon, Google and Apple, Facebook is tipped to reveal the products at its F8 developer conference in May, where it regularly shows off new features and services. The speakers will then go on sale in July, it is claimed.

According to Digitimes, citing sources in the supply chain, Facebook's smart speakers are code-named Fiona and Aloha, with the latter to be called Portal when it goes on sale. While Fiona is expected to be a device similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, Portal is said to have a large 15-inch touch screen, twice the size of the display of Amazon's Echo Show and larger even than the eight and 10-inch Google Assistant displays due out later this year from Lenovo.

The report cited its sources as saying: "The Aloha model is more sophisticated than Fiona, both designed by Facebook's Building 8 hardware lab. The Aloha model, to be marketed under the official name Portal, will use voice commands but will also feature facial recognition to identify users for accessing Facebook via a wide-angle lens on the front of the device."

Facebook is going up against smart speakers by Amazon and GoogleAmazon/Google

As well as acting as a social media device, it is claimed the smart speakers will play music thanks to licensing deals recently struck by Facebook with Sony and Universal Music. Sources also claim the new devices will be just the start of a catalogue of new video-centric products to be launched by Facebook over the next five years.

Reports that Facebook is working on a video chat device first emerged in August 2017, and even back then it was understood that a second, simpler device was also in the works to rival the Amazon Echo and Google Home. At the time, Bloomberg claimed Facebook was hiring former Apple employees to help create a Siri-style voice assistant to run on both new devices.

Although the smart speaker market is clearly a hot place for technology companies to be in 2018, the jury is out on whether consumers will want a camera, microphone, screen and facial recognition system from Facebook in their homes. Despite its two billion active members, Facebook has received criticism - not least from some of its founders, including former president Sean Parker who said it "exploits weaknesses in human psychology", before worrying about what the site will do to the next generation of children.

(Check out The GearBrain to learn what smart home products and connected devices work with Google Home or Amazon Alexa.)

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