Facebook on Wednesday confirmed that it's working on its own voice assistant, carving out a space among competitors like Apple's Siri and Amazon Alexa.
"We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products," a spokesperson told Reuters. Voice commands can be especially important for AR and VR headsets, since they're typically not used in combination with a keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen.
Portal is actually the company's video call hardware. Adding a voice assistant would naturally turn it into a video-capable smartspeaker akin to the Google Home Hub or Amazon Echo Show.
The assistant was first exposed earlier today by CNBC, which said that it's being crafted by a Redmond, Wash., team typically assigned to long-term projects. Development began in early 2018, and Facebook has allegedly been contacting vendors in the smartspeaker supply chain, perhaps pointing to a dedicated product.
Any Facebook-branded smartspeaker would face an uphill battle. Amazon and Google are by far the dominant players in the market — Apple's HomePod, backed by billions of dollars, is estimated to have claimed just 1.6% of the market in the December quarter. Facebook has also been wracked by scandals, which may only add to suspicions about the privacy of smartspeakers.