After speculations pointed towards Facebook building a smart wireless speaker, a new report from Bloomberg suggest Facebook might launch a video chat device later next year. Now it appears that Facebook is likely to launch the video chat device before it releases a smart wireless speaker.
Facebook’s video chatting device is aimed at home users for now. It will be designed by Building 8 lab, the company’s experimental division. The device features a touchscreen display and includes smart cameras powered by artificial intelligence.
The device is currently being tested in real world scenarios. The aim is to enable people to chat via video without having to go through the trouble of installing apps or signing in each time. A fixed device that’s always-on could be a solution to our video conferencing issues at home, according to the company.
Another key hardware product that Facebook is working on is a small wireless speaker. The social networking giant aims to target a price tag of under $100 to appeal to a much wider audience. The strategy might work since Amazon managed to bring Alexa to a lot of homes with cheaper Echo Dot speakers.
A key element of Facebook’s smart speaker has to be a virtual assistant that just works. Without one, it’ll be hard to sell another wireless speaker to customers. According to the Bloomberg report, Facebook is already busy hiring employees from Google and Apple to help build a voice based personal assistant. The company also acquired another start-up Ozlo which might help speed up the process of creating a powerful virtual assistant.
Facebook also sells the Oculus virtual reality headset but it didn’t build it itself. It simply acquired the company which designed and manufactured it. Facebook’s video chat device would be the first full blown hardware product from the company.
The video chatting device is expected to feature the following:
- 13-15-inch (diagonal) display with touchscreen support
- Likely to run on Google’s Android mobile operating system
- Wide-angle camera lens
- AI-powered camera with automatic face and object detection
- Customer-friendly price
Facebook hasn’t released an official statement regarding the mentioned report. It’s quite evident that it’ll take a lot of refining and testing to create such a product. Since it’ll be Facebook’s first, it needs to be extra careful since it’ll end up competing with the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Our take: We honestly feel Facebook’s video chatting device could be an overkill. With smartphones all around, getting a device specifically for video chatting doesn’t seem like a frugal choice for any customer. Even if Facebook manages a deeper integration and a few bells and whistles, it cannot help sell a product we already own and use in some form or the other.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook’s so called video chat device turns into a smartphone. It happened with Apple while it was working on the iPad, it could happen with Facebook too. But then it’s probably too late and too outlandish for the social networking giant to make a phone now, not without its own killer mobile operating system.