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Home / Tips and Tricks / Facebook Pioneer's Augmented Reality for the TV with Latest Portal Hardware «Next Reality

Facebook Pioneer's Augmented Reality for the TV with Latest Portal Hardware «Next Reality



When Facebook launched its first hardware products last year, the portal and smart displays, the company mostly touted its video calling features.

But Facebook also had an interesting feature that mostly flew under the radar. The portal devices were also capable of augmented reality, with spark AR, the platform responsible for mobile augmented reality experiences on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, supplying the virtual effects.

Roughly a year later, with a former Google engineer leading the Portal team, Facebook has expanded the portal family.

In addition to last year's portal + (now $ 279), Facebook now offers a redesigned portal ($ 179 ), which now resembles a Google / Nest Home Hub, the similarly-designed-just-smaller Portal Mini ($ 129), and a brand new form factor, the Portal TV ($ 149).

Image via Facebook

The devices are available for purchase via the Amazon website, and Best Buy in US and Canada. Customers who opt to buy any two devices will enjoy a $ 50 discount on their purchase. Facebook has also expanded its sales territory for the portal collection of devices, with customers in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and New Zealand now ready to purchase the hardware.

For our purposes here, we are focusing on Portal TV, because it achieves a rather unique milestone: it brings augmented reality to your television.

Image by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

Hardware Specs

Measuring in at 7.48 inches by 1.18 inches by 2.24 inches and weighing in at 0.68 pounds, the Portal TV device comes in any color as long as it's black.

Portal TV's central hardware feature is its camera, a 12.5 MP sensor with 120 degrees field of view. The device also includes a full-range speaker for audio output and far-field array of eight omnidirectional microphones for voice input.

Image via Facebook [19659008] In the portal TV comes with a remote controller with a directional navigation pad and a handful of input buttons.

In the portal TV's default configuration, it sits on a short pedestal for users who prefer to sit it below their television. For those who wish to mount the television on the top of their television, the pedestal folds out to the television portal to the rear of the television, and to the left of the television the device to attach to the front of the television's top bezel .

Finally, for peace on the privacy front, Portal TV has a shutter door for obscuring the camera, and a button to deactivate the camera and mute the microphone.

Image by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality [19659022] Software Features

First and foremost, there's video calling, which is where the augmented reality experiences come into play ,

Image via Facebook

Portal TV supports video calls via Messenger and WhatsApp, enabling portal users to contact friends and family even if they do not have their own portal device. English-speaking users in the US and Canada can use the "Hey Portal" key phrase for hands-free video calling.

The Portal TV also acts as a multimedia device, with a limited selection of media apps such as Facebook Watch, which offers a feature called while watching a video. Other apps include Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, CBS All Access, Starz, Pluto TV, Red Bull TV, and Neverthink for video and spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and iHeartRadio Family for the full-range speaker.

Image via Facebook

In addition, the portal TV integrates Amazon Alexa for access to all of the assistant's smart skills and packs called Superframe for displaying photos, birthday reminders, and online friends.

But this is Next Reality, and we're talking about one thing: augmented reality

Spark AR on the portal

Portal has four augmented reality categories for users to choose from, one that is familiar to Facebook Messenger users, one is still in the oven. [19659002] First, the portal offers the same AR effects that are available on the messenger mobile app. These AR effects work on calls between portal users as well as in calls between portal and mobile messenger users.

Image by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

Second, there's Storytime, which works for portal users calling other portal users or messenger users on mobile or desktop. As the name implies, the feature assists users in telling children's stories.

Storytime works much like a traditional book, with virtual frames visible to the audience and captions visible to the reader. Readers advance each "page" with the handheld remote.

One game overlays on image of a cat on each caller's face, and each player in his or her head on the camera. I misunderstood the rules in the first round, thinking that the red beams of light are being tracked to my face. Knowing the rules the second time around, I still lost due to a lack of dexterity.

Another game uses a smile, where whoever smiles last wins. I won.

The next game was cooperative rather than competitive.

Image by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

Finally, the Emoji game acts as an icebreaker game, enabling callers to get to know each other. Each round of the game presents the participants with a pair of emojis. Players select their favored emoji by leaning their heads in the direction of the emoji.

If there's one drawback to those games, it comes in situations where there's more than one person in the camera view. The Portal camera has the tendency to loose track of which it should focus on.

The view from Messenger. Images by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

Finally, a new AR experience launching this year is called Mic Drop. ARCHITECTS, with callers taking turns performing.

Because the AR effects are built on Spark AR, the potential for independent AR experiences for portal are within the realm of Possibility.

Portal Privacy

So there's an elephant in the room when it comes to Facebook, and its name is privacy.

But the same has been said with privacy in mind. Here is what the company has to say about privacy on portal :

Portal has clear and simple settings for privacy and security. You can disable the camera and microphone with a single tap or a sliding switch.

For added security, smart camera and smart sound use AI technology that runs locally on portal , not on Facebook servers.

If you have "Hey Portal" enabled, portal listens for the phrase "Hey Portal." If it's detected, Portal sends a short audio recording and transcript of the "Hey Portal" voice interaction to Facebook. A trained team may review a sample to make our voice services smarter and more accurate for everyone. You can view, hear and delete any of your "Hey Portal" voice interactions in your Facebook Activity Log. You can therefore turn off voice storage in anytime settings, which means that your voice interactions are not stored or reviewed. To learn more about Portal's privacy features, visit portal.facebook.com/privacy.

– Facebook

In addition, a Facebook spokesperson confirms that any interactions with Alexa are only available to Amazon's servers.

How does this information impact consumers' outlook on the device? Some skepticism is warranted. discovered on the iOS version of the Facebook app.

Image via Facebook

Then again, the average consumer seems to be unphased by Facebook's track record. Conclusion

During a briefing, Facebook product manager Kelly Zhou emphasized that the overarching theme of the AR features and the portal platform as a whole, is building connection.

This is evident in the selection of AR experiences. There's no capture button for sending photos in direct messages or sharing stories. These are meant to be real-time experiences in live conversations. As a communications tool, the portal TV and its AR features succeed.

But, privacy fears aside, the portal TV seems like a niche device for fringe audiences, like grandparents and their grandchildren. To tell my point, in a conversation with a millennial friend, I shared that I was testing a portal TV. When asked what it was,

"You mean like I can already do it with my phone?" what the response.

Images by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

This is a small sample, sure. But a 2016 report revealed that 52% of smartphone users 18 to 34 used smartphones for video calling. And that was three years ago.

Nonetheless, Portal TV is breaking new ground as a fun AR communications device for televisions. Do not Miss: NR30: Next Reality's 30 People to Watch in Augmented Reality for 2019

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Cover image via Facebook


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