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Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device ( 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
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Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device

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  • They should call it The Cousins.

  • I don't even want (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:15AM (#54924365)

    To talk to people on the phone. Videoconferencing is even more annoying.

    Facebook video conferencing devices will be just another footnote in failure.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      You are forgetting the immense market for XXX chat; they even say they can "lock-on" to somebody when there is many participants...

      • People have been trying to sell videophones for decades. They all failed for one reason - they're damn inconvenient. A videophone for the home - great - now I have to get dressed before I answer a call. No thanks. Also, do you really want your phone spying on you even more than it does now?

        What next - companies demanding that you have a Facebook account and leave Facebook video chat open when you're working from home? Even though studies show that people working from home tend to work more hours than they

        • Is FaceBook doing this for business or personal use? Business - I'd agree w/ you. Personal - I like walking around the house, phone in hand and showing my niece what's in the fridge

        • ob. Dilbert, working from home: []
        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          "They all failed for one reason - they're damn inconvenient."

          No, they all failed because they needed expensive data lines. I've been to several B2B meetings where these things get inevitably shown. They all fail because of the need for bandwidth.

          • Wrong. There were videophones that worked on 56k dial-up modem lines. They saw very limited sales because nobody wanted them.

    • Why isn't WhatsApp, which is available for most phones, adequate? How does FaceBook plan to do the actual physical connection? Is it via Internet, sorta like Skype? Or is it via phones, like WhatsApp?

      Not talking about videoconferencing interviews here - but when I facetime w/ family, I walk b/w rooms, phone in hand, whenever I want to show them things around the house. This device sounds like it'll be stuck to ONE room!

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Ditto for me due to my disabilities. Lots of people hate using online communications without talking and hearing. :(

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know what I'm gonna do if I visit someone and their cams "lock onto me".

    Remember those glasshole bearers being beaten out of the pub?

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:28AM (#54924389)
    That'd be great, if this was 1997. But given the digital diaspora of small screens and the websites, games and apps created to accommodate these, families don't gravitate to the living room anymore. That's where my dogs go, because it has the cushiest chairs...
    • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @07:23AM (#54924499) Homepage

      That's what this is really for: video-chatting with your dogs while you're at work.

    • That'd be great, if this was 1997. But given the digital diaspora of small screens and the websites, games and apps created to accommodate these, families don't gravitate to the living room anymore. That's where my dogs go, because it has the cushiest chairs...

      Your dogs go on the chairs in the living room? Lazy bastard, maybe you should walk them for a change :-)

      Seriously, you're absolutely right. The only people who will want this are bosses so that they can "supervise" you by making sure you're logged in and running when you're working from home. After all, most of the justification for their jobs is the ability to count warm butts in seats.

  • Willful Ignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @06:38AM (#54924403)

    I'm certain that this won't be turned into yet another always listening device in the home, complete with the always watching bonus feature, right?

    Sometimes I wonder if vendors make products just to test the ignorance level of the masses.

    Then I remember that consumers don't care about privacy anymore, and somehow I feel better knowing it's willful ignorance.

    • They've been indoctrinated to the Nth degree that 'sharing everything about your life is NORMAL and NATURAL and SOCIALLY RIGHT, and that only CRIMINALS and TERRORISTS and DEVIANTS and other UNDESIRABLES want privacy!'. Of course that's complete and utter bullshit. Any child from about, what, the age of 8? NATURALLY WANTS PRIVACY in some situations. People have furthermore been indoctrinated that 'If you have NOTHING TO HIDE then you have NOTHING TO FEAR!', which is also bullshit. Therefore people say ridicu
  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @07:06AM (#54924471)
    So, they're building a tablet but one intended to have fewer capabilities?
    • I would say a tablet that works by voice command. Think Amazon Alexis with a camera based around Facebook's services. You know like those Android camera boxes you can everywhere for $30-50. []

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      I would pay $250 for a video-chat appliance in my house.

      Currently we Skype with grandparents on an ipad in protective kid case, or on our phones. My toddlers love to see them but fight over it, and paw at the screen pressing all the buttons and all the touch gestures, and they particularly love the red hang-up button. I have to spend an hour holding the thing up with one hand out of reach. I think it'd be better parenting to create an environment that gives them more independence, and makes it so their fail

      • by pnutjam ( 523990 ) []

        Although it might fail on the "not attractive to toddlers" front.
        • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

 [] Although it might fail on the "not attractive to toddlers" front.

          Yeah, I'd been looking at that one. This route would be to buy this for $220, buy a cheap laptop or headless computer to plug it into, buy a flat TV, mount them all together out of reach. Then I'd power on the computer, use a mouse to launch skype (or set up an init script to launch Skype automatically).

          I think the standalone webcam+android set-top boxes looked more convenient and a lot cheaper. But for some reason all the ones I saw had amazon reviews that said they have poor wifi. I'm also very reluctant

          • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
            Sorenson makes a video chat device that works well, there is a version by D-link. However, you have to know the IP you are connecting to. I think Sorenson uses some sort of DDNS to track people, the dlink version doesn't have that.
            The Sorenson one is marketed to deaf people, I'm not sure if you can buy one. They give them out free to Deaf people through some sort of program, it allows them to sign to each other.
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        " I'd pay $25 for an ipad video-chat app which isn't so touch-enabled that toddlers mess it up"

        So just get Camfrog.

        • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

          " I'd pay $25 for an ipad video-chat app which isn't so touch-enabled that toddlers mess it up"

          So just get Camfrog.

          I'm not sure how that would help? It looks like the iOS version of Camfrog still uses touch ubiquitously for its UI? And it has the added complexity that I'd have to install and maintain it on my parents' computer, and train+support them in how to use it.

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )

            You've apparently not downloaded and used the application and evaluated its full set of features (not all are advertised) either on mobile or desktop. Otherwise, you'd realize just how wrong you are on almost every single point.

  • It sounds like a Chromebook with a touche screen. Can't you get a Windows 10 or Android tablet now that does that? Are they just re-inventing the 'internet appliance [] for the late 80's to early 90's'? I'm getting so tired of rehashing the same old concepts.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @07:46AM (#54924593)
    is it posting stories from 1999?
    • is it posting stories from 1999?

      No, that's what Facebook's users do. Post Amber Alerts from years ago, conspiracy theories from decades ago, flat earth propaganda from centuries ago ... it's because Facebook users are devolving.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I kept telling all you people this shit was going to happen. You kept scoffing at me, mocking me, ignoring me, insisting it'll never happen. "LOL, nobody is going to put cameras and microphones in my home! You're a crazy person!" you all said to me.

    Ho, what's this? 'Amazon Alexa' and the like? 'Videoconferencing' courtesy of Facebook, one of the biggest surveillance and data collection apparatus on the planet? If you do not see what is happening then you a either BLIND or a FOOL.

    Eschew this technolog
    • Paranoid much. If you don't want, don't buy. Job done.
      • So you don't have one. Fine. But what will you do when every other house has one? When your private conversations are recorded when you visit friends and relatives, or worse - they bring it along when they visit yours.

        I was on vacation recently, and lo and behold, the brother in law brought along Alexa to the remote cabin in the mountains.

        The problem isn't that you won't buy one, it's that they'll be ubiquitous. That private conversation regarding politics or religion or whatever will be monitored

        • Agreed. At some point we're going to have to start regulating data capture - it's just not good enough to let the 'market' decide because you can't control your own surroundings given how many devices exist and how easy they are to have around. Every smartphone could be a capture device and who doesn't have one of those now? It's not too many years away where processing all that data will be realistic.

          We're in a new world now, one different from all of human history, so we're going to have to adapt and trea

        • I agree up to a point. My home is sacrosanct, I can do what I want there. I can choose my friends carefully, sadly I'm stuck with the family I have, so if I was worried by this I would have to make a conscious decision. I totally agree that ubiquity will be a problem though. Political discussion will have to take place in the garden :)
      • BLIND FOOL detected.
    • Problem is - if you're friends *are* on Facebook then you're already there, your face is already in their photos and a great deal of info can be gleaned from your associated presence. It's not down to you anymore, we're going to need more than individual action.

      • I'm not on Facebook and people I know on Facebook know not to post photos of me there. They get excommunicated from my life if they disrespect my wishes in the matter.
        • I'm not on Facebook and people I know on Facebook know not to post photos of me there. They get excommunicated from my life if they disrespect my wishes in the matter.

          Cool - but you must admit that's quite an extreme position to take, you have to be very sure to lay down such strong rules away-from-the-norm on your friends. Most people do not have such a tight control of their friends' actions. Nor do you actually know if your friends are actually following your wishes, since you're not on Facebook you can't check, therefore they may be posting and not telling you. Which brings us back to the original problem, of what companies are allowed to do with the information they

          • I'm a non-standard person and I have non-standard friends; they understand. If they didn't I wouldn't have them as friends.

            There needs to be more precise laws regarding such, yes, but in the current socio-political climate, you're accused of being a terrorist sympathizer or and out-and-out extremist yourself if you suggest that there be LESS surveillance and data collection, regardless of the fact that none of it is making anyone 'safer', it's just taking away more and more of people's freedom.
  • We could have done that years, turns out no one wants it. Everyone would rather text. It's getting to the point where they're dictating a text to siri and having her read it back to them. When you start seeing people do that, it's pretty clear they'll go out of their way to not actually have to talk to some one.
  • Ok so we now have Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook doing technology to listen to what is happening in our homes. Not sure I really trust any of them with that level of access to my private life, but Facebook would be way down that list if I was to sort them from most trusted to least trusted.

    Sounds like a good idea for a Slashdot poll.
  • AT&T offered the first comercial Video phone system in 1964 and telecom industries have tried to sell the service for years, but didn't catch up, and for sure wowadays you could have a personal computer with a wecam or a smetphone with an application and make cheap video calls.
    But nobody is interested: voice calls are a bit in decline, but the main proble with video calls is that people don't like to be seen in shorts and the old tattered t-shirt because they were cleaning the oven while the video ca
    • Not at all suitable for 'Work from home' roles. Fine in offices, particularly in conference rooms, when you have 2 groups of people talking to each other. That's the only use case that I can think of where it has any value

  • Seems like a general tablet with enhancemed mic system , speaker and a nice wide angle camera might be worth an OEM offering. The mic system might be better as a detachable base as charger and extended battery for distance use. The current small mic and standard speaker in tablets would suffice for close use like on lap or nearby table. Guessing the voice assistant apps migh work better with a tailored hardware & software kit but at the cost of user flexibility. Android seems best with maybe a Fire O
  • ...for playing dungeons & dragons!

    Seriously, I know I could already do this, but an "tech-light" way of getting a bunch of people together in a video-conferencing space without having to prop a phone or fins space for a laptop would be pretty cool.

  • My Kinect on my Xbone does this with Skype. It auto zooms, pans around, it's great.
  • Anti social asshole here, so forgive me my ignorance... ...but is video chat something people want? I'm talking actually want, not "oooo, gimmicky, I'll take two and then it ends up in the closet never to be used again"? Like smart phone "want". Notably, I don't actually use my phone to vocally talk to people, so that's probably a bad example.

    Seems like 3D movie tech to me; neat idea, nobody actually wants it except the company producing it.

    • Video chat widespread popularized mainly with Skype many years ago but now many Apps, WhatsApp, FaceTime , Hangouts etc... What is changing is voice activation with digital assistants and more focused devices with improved mics, speakers and cameras . Amazon Alexa variations like Echo, Dot, Look seem to be the prototypes others want to get in on with their own variation of UX plus better integration with their App. BSO - bright shiny object syndrome. Latest fad . Ooh we need in on that too.
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "Video chat widespread popularized mainly with Skype many years ago"

        Try again, much earlier - Yahoo was THE video chat place (until they cut all that out.)

    • I like it w/ family - that's the only reason I got an iPhone - FaceTime. Don't particularly care about it for work purposes
  • You can just market a stand for your pocket video phone. That way you can have a video chat and not have the phone in your hand.

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.