Go chat yourself with Facebook’s new Portal companion app – TechCrunch

Facebook has launched the start of its push into smart home software. Ignoring calls that it’s creepy, Facebook is forging onward with its Portal gadget Today Facebook quietly released iOS and Android Portal apps that let owners show off photos on the screen without sharing them to the social network, and video call their home while they’re out.

The app isn’t likely to move the needle for Portal whose potential users fall into two camps: those so alarmed by Facebook’s privacy practices that they couldn’t imagine putting its camera and microphone in their home, and those ambivalent or ignorant regarding the privacy backlash who see it as an Amazon Echo with a nice screen and easy way to video call family. Critics were mostly surprised by the device’s quality but too freaked out to recommend it. Those willing to buy it have given it a 4- to 4.4-star average rating on Amazon, praising its AI camera that keeps people in frame of a video chat while they move though jeering some setup difficulties.

Facebook announced at f8 a month ago that the Portal app was coming and eventually so would encrypted WhatsApp video calls. It also extended sales to Europe and Canada, though the new app is currently only available in the US according to Sensor Tower which tipped us off to the launch. The $199 10-inch Portal and $349 15.6-inch Portal+ launched in October, soured by a swirl of Facebook privacy scandals. Last week, the company tried to score some points with the public by funding an art project displayed at the SF Museum Of Modern Art. But the “immersive” exhibit was just some Portals stuck to some funky painted wooden backdrops, and it all felt smarmy and…

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