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Facebook developing separate video chat and smartspeaker devices, custom voice assistant - report

Facebook is reportedly working on not one but two smartspeaker-style devices, and building its own Siri-like voice assistant with the help of former Apple employees.

Amazon's Echo Show.

Amazon's Echo Show.


The first device is a previously-rumored display-based offering, which has a 13- to 15-inch touchscreen, Bloomberg sources said. The product is being developed by Facebook's Building 8 lab, and could be announced at next spring's F8 conference.

The product will allegedly be oriented toward video chat, with a wide-angle lens, microphones, and speakers, all of those getting a performance boost through AI. One feature in testing would let its camera scan for people and lock onto them, for example. Facebook is also said to be developing a 360-degree camera, but that might not be ready in time for launch.

Prototypes are said to be testing in people's homes, but it's not yet clear whether the device will run a version of Android or a custom Facebook OS.

The second device is a more conventional smartspeaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, according to sources. Like its screen-based counterpart, it should make use of Facebook's upcoming assistant. Its advantage may be a price in the "low $100 range," versus a few hundred dollars for the video product —two of the Bloomberg sources, however, indicated that Facebook could potentially abandon it in favor of the video model, since smartspeakers have already been firmly established.

The video device could bear similarities to Amazon's Echo Show, but with a much larger display.

Any new Facebook product will pose an extra challenge for Apple's HomePod, coming this December for $349. That product will lack any video functions, focusing mainly on Siri, high-quality sound, and operating as a HomeKit hub.