Just a week ago, we reported that Facebook might be working on its own smart speaker, similar to the Google Home and the Amazon Echo. This may not be the only hardware that Zuckerberg and company are gearing up to release, however, as a report from Bloomberg earlier today suggests that they also have a video chat device in development — and it could be powered by Android.
Bloomberg, citing “people familiar with the matter,” claims that the device would come with built-in speakers, microphones, and cameras that are backed up by artificial intelligence. The added smarts are said to allow the system to detect and track people and objects of interest in the room, “for example, the camera could zoom onto a painting that a child brought home from school to show to a parent away on a business trip,” said Bloomberg. The ultimate aim, apparently, is to help create a greater sense that those on the other end of a call are in the room with you.
The new device is expected to feature a display which measures between 13 and 15 inches and it might make its debut at the F8 developer conference next year. According to Bloomberg, a limited number of prototype units are already in testing in some users’ homes.
If some of this sounds familiar to you, it might be because Facebook’s rumored smart speaker that made headlines last week is also expected to launch with a laptop-sized display, and debut in Q1 next year. Though Bloomberg references both devices in its report, it seems possible that these are, in fact, just two prototypes of the same product.
A standalone Android video chat product might prove to be too niche of a device for it to have any mainstream success: we can already conduct video chats through our computers and phones without dedicated hardware for it. As for the smart speaker, it will probably have a very hard time competing with the Google Home and Amazon Echo if it lacks a digital assistant.
So maybe Facebook is working on a single home hub that can work as both a smart speaker and a video conference device. This would give it quite the advantage over Google Home and Amazon Echo, since neither of them arrives with video call capabilities.
Our ideas here are based purely on speculation for the time being: for all we know, Facebook might be developing both or neither of these products. But Facebook seems keen to create hardware and it’s already pursuing current tech trends such as VR — if it’s working on more devices, a connected speaker isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.