Facebook will jump on the hardware business for the first time with a video chat device and a smart speaker.
This video chat device, as Bloomberg reports, will stay inside homes most of the time. It will sport a large touch display, a wide angle-camera, microphones, and speakers. Judging by its description, Facebook's notional device sounds a lot similar to the Amazon Echo Show, the first Echo-branded device with a screen.
Facebook To Launch A Video Chat Gadget For The Home
According to the report, the device will serve as the first major hardware product from Facebook's experimental Building 8 lab, where the company builds potential products that can "connect the world." A video device lines up perfectly with that mission.
Facebook could launch the said device during its F8 developer conference next spring, according to sources privy to Facebook's plans. Apparently, the combination of its large screen and wide-angle lens can make people feel as if they're in the same room. The device currently remains in its prototype phase, although the product is apparently already being tested in people's households.
One version of the device is apparently equipped with a screen measuring between 13 to 15 inches, almost the size of an average laptop. Facebook is exploring the idea of running Android on the device, but beyond the operating system, it wants to equip it with artificial intelligence, which Bloomberg explains will "scan for people ... and lock onto them." What this means remains a question, although it sounds pretty similar to the Microsoft Kinect.
Facebook Smart Speaker On The Cards Too
As for the standalone smart speaker, reports say it would directly rival Amazon and Google with their Echo and Home products, respectively.
Facebook is allegedly on the hunt for veteran Apple employees to aid it in the creation of a voice assistant similar to Siri, and this new voice assistant will work on both the video chat device and the smart speaker. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it's worth noting, already uses an AI-powered assistant to control his own home.
Both devices will nevertheless represent the company's grander plans to cut its teeth into the hardware business. Though it already somewhat has experience in hardware with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, but Facebook's involvement with it has mostly been in terms of software.
Finally, the Building 8 lab is also rumored to be exploring the idea of a modular smartphone.
Should It Bother With Hardware?
Unlike many failed social networks, Facebook has become a juggernaut entity, to say the least. What had simply stood as a fairly simple social media avenue has now become a source of news, a dedicated messaging platform, a breeding ground for AI chatbots, and a virtual reality company.
Branching into hardware will definitely be a risky move, but it will help Facebook stay relevant in the years to come.